Thursday, April 06, 2006

No Business Like Show Business

I have made the contention that politics is all show business these days. Well, there is a bit more to it than that, but the "show" is a major component. I want to point out an article by Carmine Gallo in Business Week about how Steve Jobs keeps Apple exciting and in the news. I think the Dem candidates could take a huge lesson from this. They need to be SELLING themselves to the public, and they have to understand marketing and how to excite and interest the voter. So perhaps I should change my thesis to "politics is all marketing".

How to Wow 'Em Like Steve Jobs

Read this article. It is also interesting to note that the author, Carmine Gallo, is from Pleasanton.

I strongly suggest the Dems spend some money and hire this guy or someone like him. They certainly need the pizzazz. McNerney especially has a great message and good ideas, but he needs to add "Steve Jobs" style excitement to his presentations. In other words, less PhD, more Hollywood.


Anonymous Scott Chacon said...

I completely disagree. In fact, I think politics is far too close to marketing today. Look at any major political candidate - they are becoming more and more packaged, market segment tested commodities and less problem solving representatives. This is how we are getting away from solving problems like poverty and health care affordability and focusing on Luntzian, focus-group tested wedge-issue framing. This is why politics is all about money, which in turn is why the system is getting more and more corrupted. There is nothing more appalling and disheartening to me than "politics is all marketing" - politics is already more marketing than substance and it is killing our democracy.

So, let's talk about Steve Jobs for a moment. I love Apple computers - I own three and I have another that was issued to me by my work, at my request. My wife and I have owned four different iPods now and have bought several Apple software products (FinalCut, iWork, etc). So, you could say a fair amount of my money has been willingly parted with and handed over to Apple. I have never seen a Steve Jobs keynote. I have never once seen the man speak. I'm willing to bet that 99% of all Apple owners have not either. I buy Apple products because they are high quality - they do what I want simply and easily and powerfully and so I buy them. Steve Jobs turned Apple around because he made them change their operating system to be Unix based and changed a lot of the central philosophies there - not because he gives a killer speech. He has a vision and a conviction, and the whole company and it's products radiate that energy and customer focus - he has a quality product that he personally believes in and it shows.

The best political presentation I ever saw was a speech on targeting by Rudy Lopez. He used none of the things this guy is talking about - he spoke passionately, with some humor, but he wasn't selling himself. He believed in what he was saying and it was obvious. In fact, it was specifically because he wasn't selling himself that I liked it so much. There were other speakers there who were experts and who spoke on subjects that were interesting, but Rudy stands out because it was obvious he loved it. TRULY loved it. It wasn't what he did because it paid the bills or he had been properly coached - he did it because he was passionate about it and he wanted us to be passionate too.

I would argue the opposite of your thesis here. Pizzaz and exciting powerpoint presentations aren't going to win voters - it certainly isn't going to improve the system. I would argue that Carmine Gallo is entirely missing the real reason Apple is successful and instead trying to convince people that it's because of an exciting keynote presentation, because guess what Carmine does for a living? I think politics needs to move in the other direction - towards truth and accountability and passion. To value and promote transparency and quality over marketing. Away from the 30 second ad and toward problem solving, community building and inspired leadership. When we can see the quality in spite of the marketing - then we'll buy it.

8:28 AM, April 06, 2006  
Blogger VPO said...

Great comments, Scott, and the funny thing is, we actually agree. Yes, that is right, Jobs believes in his products and then promotes them energetically. This has been Apple's modus operandi -- to get a bunch of users as evangelists for the products by generating enthusiasm and motivation from the very top. By being cool, hip, and with it.

However, I must note that, Apple, while very successful, never came close to matching Microsoft's success with its street-fighting, take-no-prisoners approach. Microsoft is also known for its highly aggressive marketing, though in a different way than Apple.

The point where we disagree is that you think there is a difference between "marketing" and "substance". There can, and often is, vacuous marketing, that is putting lipstick on at pig, or trying to sell a scam. That is what gives marketing a bad name. The used car salesman kind of approach.

But I contend that true marketing is more along the lines of what you are saying -- that you need a quality product that meets the users' needs and you need to be passionate and excited about promoting it, because it is something of real value for the customer. That is what marketing is to me.

Which of these pitches do you like?

1. I have a software product, and it is really cool and will help your business. Many people around the world use it and are excited by it. They promote it to their friends and business partners. They say it has really helped make them more successful. We partner with you on this -- your success is my success. It is something you really need, and I can sell it to you at a very low cost.

2. Or, here is a program that you may want to take a look at, maybe not. Some people use it, seem to like it, but I am not sure if it will be really useful for you. We sell it cheap, just because we are not sure if you will like it or not, but maybe you will buy because it costs so little. Anyway, if you have time, maybe look it over someday.

Note that it is the same product, with the same virtues and abilities. The top pitch has excitement, and yes, marketing in it, but it sure makes you want to take a look, if not actually buy it. The second makes you think that maybe you will take a pass on that.

Same with the Dems -- how are they going to market themselves to the public? With the tired pitch of # 2? Go to a Filson/McNerney debate if you are having trouble sleeping. There is no there there, not yet. The pitch is boring, tedious, intellectual. How will that excite voters and inspire them?

If nothing else, Pombo at least has the "rancher/cowboy schtick" going. It is bogus, but it is colorful and gives the press a hook. Better than 'wind energy consultant' or 'airline pilot'. 'Rancher' at least sounds connected to the land and people of San Joaquin.

So yes, the candidate needs substance and merit, but he also needs to be marketed, not in the sham sense, but in the sense of getting the message out in a way that the modern day voter can respond to and get excited about. This does not mean a lack of substance, but instead a revealing of that substance in a way that attracts, makes sense to, and excites the voters.

10:19 AM, April 06, 2006  
Anonymous nicholas said...

hey vpo, whens the last time you saw jerry speak?

2:56 PM, April 06, 2006  
Blogger VPO said...

I plan to see him on April 16 at the Walnut Creek event. I am looking forward to it.

But, you know, I have been thinking, and have decided that what the Dem candidates need are hats. That's right, hats -- Pombo has his cowboy hat, maybe Filson could wear his pilots hat. May look a little dorky, so perhaps his Navy hat would be cool. In fact, he probably should just wear the whole uniform. Anchors aweigh, my friend!

As for Jerry, well, let's see -- the baseball cap is ok, but a bit pedestrian. But maybe he needs one of those fly fisherman hats, with all the lures stuck in it. Or a camo hat, that would be cool. With big black boots. Or maybe a straw Panama hat. I think a bandana would not work though.

Perhaps he could take up motorcycling and wear black leather and carry his helmet tucked under his arm whenever he speaks. Muy macho! That would certainly dispel the PhD image. Would have to be a Harley though.

See what genius ideas we come up with here on the SNTP blog? I will now fully expect Jerry to come roaring up on his hog at the next debate.

9:13 PM, April 06, 2006  

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