In Jack Neff’s October 12, 2009 Advertising Age article, Why it’s time to do away with the brand manager, that discussed the new roles for marketing in the social media age, Jack interviewed Denuo CEO Rishad Tobaccowala, a longtime thought leader on digital marketing. Mr. Tobaccowala stated that “the brand manager model of the future may be adapted from venture-funded startups or political campaigns.” As an advertising and marketing professional who has an undergraduate degree in Political Science and who has also worked on several political campaigns, the latter reference caught my attention.  Tobaccowala goes on to say that “political campaigns which run on rapid iterations, real-time data monitoring and full recognition of the interplay between public relations, social media and advertising - may provide another model for the future of marketing organizations.”   Interestingly, I have made similar statements over the past year. I believe that political campaigns aren’t just a possible model for marketing organizations, but rather they are the new paradigm. Below are four reasons why:
  • They engage. Maybe it’s because of the events or the door-to-door canvassing or the campaign activists themselves or a culmination of these things, but political campaigns got the engagement aspect of digital and social media straightaway. And they’re not afraid of it. When you go door-to-door, you know each time you go out at least one person if not more will tear into you about the candidate. You might have protesters at your events. You listen, learn and if appropriate alter aspects of the campaign. It’s no surprise then that unenthusiastic comments on a campaign blog, in related forum or on a candidate’s Facebook Wall won’t rattle a campaign. It’s expected and sometimes even welcome. Brand marketers need to engage the consumer and understand it won’t always be pleasant, but it will be productive.
  • They manage flux. The landscape of an electoral campaign is constantly changing. A prominent benefactor in a key district pulls her support. The opposition has only agreed to 1 debate instead of 3. New polling shows you dropped 3 points in a week. Political campaigns don’t panic. And they definitely don’t ignore these fluctuations. Rather, they remain calm and set-up action plans that may again need to be adapted in the not too distant future. For brand marketers, the new media terrain undulates in a similar fashion. Organizations need to accept a fast-paced, irregular marketing environment and arrange their teams appropriately.
  • They respond rapidly. Campaigns have “War Rooms” to quickly assess information and respond rapidly. What brand marketing organizations have “War Rooms?” With social media listening services like Radian6, Collective Intellect and Sprial16, you know immediately what is being said about your brand. The Motrin case study from last fall illustrates the need for brands to adopt a rapid response mindset and competency.
  • They’re staffed appropriately. Properly engaging voters, managing flux and responding rapidly require bodies, lots and lots of bodies. And not just anyone. Competent, talented and passionate professionals. A campaign’s headquarters is often bustling with many, many consultants, paid campaign workers and volunteers. And all of this is expensive. Like political campaigns, digital and social media marketing and real-time measurement and analysis is human resource intensive. And like political campaigns, it’s not cheap. Yet marketers are currently cutting their staffs and squeezing their agencies. If marketers wish to be successful in this new social media age, they must recognize the true investment required.

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