Posts tagged “Politics

It’s Official! Marketing Trick of the Century is Free Money

The marketing fad of the century.

No, it is not mobile phones.  Not reality television.  Not Paris Hilton or black presidents with funny names.

It isn’t celebrity endorsements or home spun viral videos.

It isn’t social media, it isn’t Twitter or Facebook or any of that other stuff.

It is free money.

Yup, FREE MONEY.  Throw out all those new fangled, technology-laden ideas.  Simply give people FREE MONEY and your product or service will be a sure fired hit.

money-treeThe confirmation of this breakthrough discovery came late last week amidst the craze over the “cash for clunkers” program.

For those not familiar, the cash for clunkers program is a free money program for anyone who finds him or herself stuck with an old gas-guzzling car.  You may have that gas guzzler because you were too stupid to see the coming oil crisis coming and had this fantasy that you’d be able to afford tooling around in a half-ton pickup or an SUV the size of a small school bus.

Or you may have that gas guzzler parked in the driveway simply because it has been 15 years since you bought a new car and you’ve been too cheap to buy a new one.

You see, it really didn’t ‘t matter WHY you have a gas guzzler.  The only qualification for free money is that you HAVE a gas guzzler.  The only criteria is possession, not motivation.

Bingo … you get $4,500.  Everybody loves it.  It was so popular that the government stumbled over itself to dole out even more FREE MONEY once the original free money ran out.

[In fact, I’m thinking of creating a gas guzzler secondary market — I’ll buy up gas guzzlers cheap and resell them for people looking for FREE MONEY.  I’ll sell you a $2,000 gas guzzler and you can turn around and trade it in for a new car and get double that in FREE MONEY.  This is a secret plan so please don’t tell anyone.]

The cash for clunkers is one of a long list of FREE MONEY successes of 2009.

Some five years ago finance companies like CountryWide Mortgage promised people FREE MONEY so they could buy homes they otherwise couldn’t afford.  It was a runaway success in the U.S and abroad.  Those folks at CountryWide couldn’t give away free money fast enough and home sales soared.  Then there was Bernie Madoff.  He promised FREE MONEY to anyone with a savings account.  He gave people FREE MONEY regardless of risk and market conditions.  Bernie was very popular.

But the granddaddy of the FREE MONEY marketing approach has been the U.S. government.  They have bee doling out FREE MONEY for decades for things like agriculture, prescription drugs, military weapons, and all sorts of cheap consumer goods from abroad.  The farmers, drug companies, defense contractors and the Chinese can’t get enough of  it.

Now it is true that CountryWide Mortage eventually went bankrupt.  And Bernie Madoff eventually went to jail.  But the government — God bless the government — the government is like that dog gone Energizer bunny and just keeps going and going and going.

So when you set up your FREE MONEY marketing program, be sure that you’ve figured out how to get the government to watch your back.  There are several strategies that work like tying your FREE MONEY program to something that makes politicians look good (like the cash for clunkers thing).  Oh, and if you’re one of those companies that is “too big to fail” … then the FREE MONEY program is a slam dunk.

So at that next marketing brainstorm meeting, after everyone has trotted out their old-style, fuddy duddy, predictable sales and promotion ideas — iPhone app … Ning site … whacky video contest … blah … blah … blah … blah.

When they turn to you, speak confidently the two secret words of marketing success that we KNOW works in the new millennium.

Free money!

Democracy and Social Media

I’m trying to connect the dots on a couple of stories that appeared today in the Washington Post.

jokerThe first was about the wolf shirt phenomenon on Amazon. Mike Musgrove writes about how and bloggers gamed the system to make an otherwise hideous t-shirt one of the top purchases on Amazon.

This type of online rabble-rousing appears to be catching on more than ever over the past year, said Tim Hwang, the organizer of ROFLCon, a convention dedicated to celebrating Internet memes. After all, another Web-based prank crossed over into the real world just last month when a 21-year-old college student, known by the online moniker “m00t,” sailed to the top of Time’s “most influential person” list in an online poll, beating out the likes of President Obama and Oprah Winfrey. Gathering nearly 17 million votes, the world’s “most influential” person is the founder of another jokey Web culture site,, whose proprietor is known offline by the name Christopher Poole.

So we know that the social media stuff can be gamed.  No big deal.  Just like in the old days!  Back then it was Hearst and yellow journalism.  Now it is some folks getting a good laugh.

Parenthetically, I’ll take the latter over the former.

Then – later in the A section – which is pretty much the entire serious news part of the Washington Post these days — there’s a story about how the Obama Administration is remaking the U.S. government’s online presence. meet

Don’t tell the folks.  We all might be trading tax dollars for wolf t-shirts.

Government meets social media.  This is a good thing, right?

Assessing Brand Obama: The “Dog Year” Presidency

Recently I was asked to provide thought and commentary on President Obama’s first one hundred days in office.  The discussion takes place in Boston at an advisory board meeting this Friday.

I thought I’d use the Juice Bar as a handy note pad to jot down thoughts and float some trial balloons.

Let’s start with the unusual.  Typically people do that last.  You know … tell a joke, set the stage, identify the commonalities, cite historical precedent, and then wind it all up with a handful of pithy observations and quotable quotes that are supposed to get people to say “hmm … never looked at it that way …”  (Or if you’re the cynical sort (like me) the close often seems to be trying to get people to say “damn … that’s one smart guy!” … but I digress)

So for this first foray, let’s discard all the presentation foreplay and do what my friend Bink Garrison suggests and “start backwards.”

Let’s start with questions …  questions that have been nagging me ever since I was given this assignment … and questions that suggest a conclusion or two about what is making the Obama presidency different.

Today’s questions is …

Where did the time go?

As I said, the topic suggested for this panel is “Obama’s First One Hundred Days.”  Notice something odd about that?

Yup.  You’re right!  President Obama is not close to being in office one hundred days.  I haven’t had the time to figure out when his “One Hundred Day” mark will be — but my guess is that it is sometime around Easter (BTW, Happy Mardi Gras!).

So why start talking now — in the dead of winter — about something that is not going to take place until Easter?  Is this advisory board of mine a bit goofy?  Not really.  Seems there are a lot of other people interested in discussing this topic well in advance of its actual occurrence.

Google “Obama’s First One Hundred Days” and you get nearly 71 million results (all in .23 seconds!).   For a guy that has been in office just a little over a month, President Obama already seems to many as comfortable as an old pair of jeans … so much so that folks are already writing the obituary of his first 100 days right after his first news conference.

Maybe it was the Democratic primary that wouldn’t die.

Maybe it is the effect of watching the nation’s economy and your personal wealth slowly but inexorably melt away.

Maybe it is the ubiquitous and inescapable media that takes any event and expands, extends, and makes a five second event last for five days.

But the Obama presidency already seems like dog years — every day in real time seems like seven days to us normal humans.

Redefining Consumption

In the aftermath of the trauma of 9-11, President Bush gave us this advice:

Go shop.”

In so doing our President told us to go out and feed our nation’s greatest addiction and increasingly what many consider to be one of our last remaining economic assets:  consumption.

The ability to consume.  That is our heritage.  Damn the economy.  To heck with the environment, education, and the sinking stock market.

Our ability to — no, our NEED to consume seems to know no bounds.

Note that this is not the consumption that our forefathers celebrated the first Thanksgiving.  Back then they called consumption a disease.  Among other things, consumption was more likely known as a “progressive wasting of the body” … not picking up something at the country store.

Based on what I read in this morning’s papers, we should go back to the old meaning of “consumption” — that of a deadly disease.

It is bad enough that two people pulled out their guns and died in a shoot-out at Toys R Us after their respective female companions got engaged in a bloody brawl.

But that a crowd of shoppers would actually trample to death the poor WalMart employee who has the unfortunate job of opening the door in the morning?

This, my friends, is sick.  Shopping meets greed meets madness meets total lack of disregard for any one meets violence.

Welcome to the new Kris Kringle.

Here’s my advice.  Don’t shop.  Take a day off.  Go check out the folks at “Buy Nothing Day.”  Or at least shop online.  Apparently a lot of people of are.

I am thankful for a lot of things.

Not shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving is one of many.

Happy Holidaze.

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?