Posts tagged “Authenticity

Explaining a Brand’s Success: An Obama Case Study

Note, before reading the following you should know that I worked and voted for Barak Obama for president.  With that as an important caveat, here’s my brand lesson from the Obama victory.

JFK, the president to whom the current president-elect is most often compared, once said:

Victory has a thousand fathers, defeat is an orphan.”

In this case, the President was talking about a defeat (The Bay of Pigs).

But let’s consider Kennedy’s quote in the context of Senator Barak Obama’s historic presidential victory over Senator McCain last November 4th.

Today there are many “fathers” being offered up explain Obama’s victory.

Most attribute the “father” of the Obama victory to history.  Specifically, the timing of the market meltdown and economic crisis.  Others say the “father” of the Obama victory was, in fact, a woman — namely, the McCain’s pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a running mate.  Still others say the “father” of the Obama victory was technology.  In this case they were talking about the incredible online money and organizing machine that the Obama campaign was able to build.

All would-be “fathers” list their reasons and point to alleged “causal” relationships between one action or development and Obama’s surge in the polls in the last 30 days.

But could the “father” of the Obama victory be simply this — of the two, he was simply found to be the better brand?

He won every debate … and by wide margins.  Could it be that people simply looked at both brands and said to themselves,

“Hmmm, I’ll take that one.”

Could the brand lesson from the Obama campaign be … start (and end) with a good product?

When the levee breaks

Growing up in New Orleans, you gain a healthy respect for two things: the Army Corps of Engineers and the Mississippi River.

New Orleans wouldn’t exist — at least in its modern day form — absent the Army Corps. Indeed, it is hard to think that any place that is 6 feet under sea level could.

I grew up a stone’s throw from the Mississippi and often played up and down the levees that protected Jefferson Parish from the river’s current. The levees and the Jefferson Parish pumping station were the only things that separated us from a swamp. It is one marvelous job of engineering.

But eventually the Mississippi River and has its way. And it doesn’t have to be the tsunami of a Katrina. It could just be the river doing what it always does … catch water from the winter snow and spring rains and head it South to the Gulf of Mexico.

You can build as many levees as you will. As high as you will. But eventually the Mississippi and nature will take its revenge.

Unfortunately, Iowans and Missourians are experiencing that today.

Recently my team and I went through our own episode of a broken levee. Like that in Iowa and Missouri, it was a once-in-a-lifetime, perfect storm, Murphy’s Law, everything that can go wrong will go wrong event.

We screwed up. And we screwed up big time.

And like the levees holding back the Mississippi, all the business processes and procedures in place, all the best planning, the loudest exhortations, the noblest of intentions … were overcome by an accumulated series of unanticipated events, bad judgments, unplanned actions, and poor planning.

Not good.

So what do you do?

Well, you can blame the Corps. And you can blame the river. Right now you see a lot of both.

But neither are very constructive.

I think the everyday people in Iowa and Missouri are a good guide for all of us.

You suck it up. You take your lumps.

You complain and indulge in self pity long enough to remind yourself that you’re human but quickly move on.

Good brands don’t make excuses. They know that eventually their levees will break.

And you either build the levees higher or figure out a way to move to higher ground.

Why Economics Remains a Dismal Science

It has been awhile. I’ve been on “vacation”. A Dutch / American reunion of sorts.

But now I’m back and on the road again which means I read USAToday.

I find the USAToday puzzles page (last inside pages of the Life Section) ideal for take offs and landings since they don’t have an on or off switch. That is, the flight attendants aren’t pestering me about turning off the games on my BlackBerry … and USAToday has puzzles that I can actually do (as opposed to the impossible and oftentimes insipid crosswords by Will Short in the NYTimes).

So as I pulled out Tuesday’s USAToday on a flight home from Boston my eyes rested on a feature story on billionaire George Soros and the promotion of his book. Seems that George is hawking something called “reflexivity.” The relevant summary of Soros’ theory of reflexivity from the USAToday piece goes something like this …

Classic free market theory holds that everyone in an economy acts rationally, based on complete information while seeking to maximize their individual welfare or profits … To Soros, the conventional approach is rubbish. Instead of a world of near-identical actors, coolly assessing their economic interests and acting with clear-eyed precision, he sees a world (and markets) governed by passion, bias and self-reinforcing errors. Because fallible human beings are both involved in, and trying to make sense of, this world, they inevitably make mistakes. … Standard economic theory is flawed, Soros says, because it treats markets populated by thinking human beings as if they operated according to the natural laws that govern atoms and molecules.

Not surprisingly, those economists entrenched in classic rational economic theory don’t view kindly on reflexivity. According to USAToday’s David Lynch:

Critics of reflexivity, especially among the economists Soros disparages, have been brutal. A reviewer of one of his earlier books savaged his “windy amateur philosophy” and attacked him for being unfamiliar with basic economics … “It is difficult to conceive of a more mistaken understanding of the profession’s research in the last 10-15 years. … The great danger of the (earlier) book is that non-economists will take seriously his ill-founded criticism of economic research,” wrote economist Christopher Neely of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

The Juice Bar has devoted several posts to the very obvious observation that people — including me — are NOT rational. The most recent was back in February coinciding with the release of Dan Airley’s book, Predictably Irrational.

So I’m naturally inclined to be open to this “ill-founded” reflexivity theory since it appears to track with reality over theory.

Then I think to myself …

Soros has made billions of dollars using his reflexivity theory … Neely oversees billions of dollars using his rational choice economic model.  Soros is so wealthy he can’t give his money away fast enough.  The U.S. economy has lurched from crisis to crisis with the dollar in the tank and skyrocketing debt.

Who ya gonna believe?

Not surprisingly, if I had to choose on who I’d want managing my money, I think I’ll go with Soros over Governor Neely of the Federal Reserve.  That is, I’ll go with someone who recognizes that people are emotional, non-linear, and, yes, irrational beings.

And this is why economics remains a dismal science.  Because it continues to refuse to accept the emotional and wacky things that make us all human.

Now … on to the sudoku page.

The Anti-Web Site Web Site

Check out Modernista! They are the advertising agency behind such brands as Hummer, Cadillac, and TIAA-CREF.

Modernista!’s non-site-site was brought to my attention by Bill Mount of Trephine Inc. via John Brodeur, both of whom are working on the new web site for the agency I work for, approporiately called, Brodeur.

In the words of Bill, Modernista! may have …

… created the first ‘siteless website’ and, in so doing, have sent the message that these are people for whom unconventional thinking is like breathing (they didn’t say ‘we’re unconventional’, they proved it in th every form of their communication). They ‘simply’ appropriated parts of the web that everybody’s already familiar with and used them to tell the Modernista! story:

* About us is on Wikipedia
* Leadership team bios are on Facebook
* The TV reel is on YouTube
* The Print Portfolio is on Flicker.

And it is all bound together by a discreet, little red banner in the upper left corner of your browser. Damn! I mean, seriously. Damn!

I don’t know if Brodeur’s going to have a “siteless website” but the Modernista! approach shows the power .. and the logical extension? .. of true social media.

I agree with Bill.