Dover Bitch

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Poor marketing

You may have noticed that this blog has been pretty dead lately. DB has had a lot going on in life, which has made it easy to ignore my own blog. But really, this primary has been just too damned ugly.

The number of blogs I read has diminished considerably over the past several months. I just haven't had the energy to duke it out over stupid things. It's really been painful to witness.

My candidate was Chris Dodd. After he dropped out, I considered John Edwards. But he dropped out before I even made up my mind about that commitment. That left me with Obama or Clinton. I would have been happy to see either in the White House, quite frankly, but over time I realized that Hillary Clinton -- a remarkable woman -- was a terrible candidate with a horrible campaign.

Again, she's a remarkable woman. But let's look at her campaign objectively.

I don't think anything encapsulates the problem of her candidacy more that the recent flap with her RFK assassination comments. It was awful and for so many reasons.

1) Any time you are in the final rounds of a tough campaign contest and your biggest supporters all go on TV to explain that you really don't want to see your opponent murdered, that's a colossal screw-up you made. When the talking heads have to "give you the benefit of the doubt" on something so macabre, you've screwed up. Will the media blow it out of proportion? Yes, that's what they do. Will your opponent make hay out of it? Yes, that's how it works. (Remember "bitter" and "would not have been my pastor?")

2) The fact that Nixon won in 1968 would seem to undermine the entire argument that she was making. The 1992 argument appears to be specious, at best.

3) Not understanding that it is irresponsible to bring up assassinations, particularly during this election, is something of a disqualifier in the judgment category.

4) The insensitivity to the Kennedys during a particularly difficult week for the family appears (to the public at least) quite tactless and uncaring.

5) The "apology" compounded the problem by failing to address the implications that were so obvious. Worse, the tired "I regret if anyone was offended" is exactly what the Obama campaign would have hoped Clinton would say. It reinforced the Obama message that the Clintons represent the same typical Washington thinking that needs to be put to rest.

But beyond those particular reasons this was a terrible gaffe, the real problem with her candidacy was exemplified by what this episode says about her message in general. Let's look at this from a marketing standpoint, since she's really been selling herself to the public.

In the locker room, before the big game, maybe the coach will say "They don't think you can win it" to psych up his team. Maybe on the podium, holding the trophy, the winners will say "They didn't think we could do it!"

But nobody sells something by reiterating that the product is undesirable. Why in the world would a campaign get on television over and over for weeks and argue that there is a growing chorus of people who don't want them around anymore? How is that an effective message for the public? Even if it were true (and as Chris Matthews -- the stopped clock who's right twice a month -- said to Terry McAuliffe, "You're arguing with nobody!"), why would you try to sell yourself with that message?

Hillary, herself, brought up the idea that people want her gone before refuting it with those bad examples. Why? What can you gain by emphasizing that there are people who don't like you?

Her message has been that Obama (presumably not assassinated) will be unable to get the support he needs to win. You will never see an ad like this: "PEPSI -- Because the Coke machine might break!" That's not a winning message.

While Obama has been associating himself with the message of change and progress that the Kennedys have embodied, Clinton associated herself with RFK's death. Great branding!

Her message increasingly is about the stolen elections in 2000. When you think of the anguish of 2000, think Hillary! Brilliant!

The glass ceiling is difficult to shatter, yes. Absolutely. But you celebrate breaking it after you win. Why make the fact that your victory is unlikely a prominent component of your rhetoric? Yes, it's true. Yes, we are overdue for a women to be president. I agree.

There are also the organizational problems and the Mark-Penn-doesn't-know-it's-not-winner-take-all problem.

The Hillary campaign has argued when they lost states that they were outspent and the defeat should have been worse. Memo to campaign managers: That just tells people that you were either given less money and had less backing or that victory was in reach and you failed to capture it.

I understand that Hillary's supporters are upset and feel robbed. But, seriously, if you could write a manual for selling something, this campaign would have to be included in the What-Not-To-Do chapter.

Once again, I think Hillary is a remarkable woman. But her campaign has been remarkably poor.