Another convention coming to a close gives rise to a conversation we marketers are just getting started. After all, when it comes to political candidates--and political conventions--we're not just talking policy, we're talking brands. And on that note we're back for Round #2. (Round #1 is right here.)
To commemorate this political convention season, I wrangled five of my colleagues–a balanced panel of liberals, moderates and conservatives–to talk shop. We've all agreed to put profession ahead of political party and, instead of debating political issues, we're analyzing the marketing merits of each of the candidate's acceptance speeches.
And we're assessing them just like we would with any other brand campaign in vetting:
- Was the speech believable: did the key messages make sense, were they consistent with the candidate's platform?
- Was the speech "ownable": was it true to the candidate's brand's personality and unique strengths?
- Was the speech relevant: did it say something important to the target audience (the American voters)–and successfully address their needs, desires and concerns?
- Overall rating: Overall, what do you rate this speech on a 5-star scale (5 stars=best), and why?
This week Brand McCain takes center stage, let's see what our panelists have to say--and then we'll ask YOU:
Cam Beck: "Before McCain selected Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, many in the Republican Party were downtrodden at their prospects for the next election. Before he picked Palin, I would have said that he needed to draw a distinction between himself and his opponent in concrete, credible terms, in order to motivate the undecided that they needed to vote against Obama, if they wouldn't vote for McCain.
He didn't really do that in the first part of this speech. If anything he gave effusive praise to his opponent, which fits well his record of working with Democrats (often to the chagrin of most people in that audience).
But he did pick Palin, so that changed the dynamic that required a heavy focus on such distinctions (he did drop a few, eventually) .... at least for Republican fence-sitters. He also dropped a few clichés popular in Republican circles, and, like Obama, got around to promising something about unicorns and chimera. Unlike Obama, he didn't promise government would create and pay for it with tax increases on the rich. Apparently tax cuts and a free global market will suffice. Like Obama, 0/5 stars."
Stephen Denny: "McCain delivered a "Like a Rock" truck commercial tonight, stressing "Country First," and, "Government is not here to make your choices for you." Make no mistake, he's no orator, but he delivered a great final 5 minutes.
Believable: personal choice, independence, and bi-partisanship, with an 'audacious plan' for energy independence. Score: 4.
Ownable: "Country First," "I'd rather lose an election than see my country lose a war," "my country saved me, and I will fight for her as long as I draw breath." Score: 5.
Relevant: Bi-partisan messages of, "I don't care who gets the credit," "I have the record and the scars to prove it," and a platform of "strong defense, work, faith, service, a culture of life, responsibility, the rule of law, and judges who don't legislate from the bench." Plus, genuine respect for his opponent. Score: 4.
Overall: Let's give him a 4 for authenticity and credibility. 'Stand up and fight– we're Americans– we never give up.'"
Ann Handley:"If Obama was the Brawny Man last week, McCain this week tried to be the Marlboro Man: a 'maverick' who isn't afraid to stir things up, an outsider who will unite the country by knitting together the two parties.
Whatev, as my teenager says.
Believable & Ownable? Not so much. He's a wonderful orator, at least in parts. (In other parts, he seemed a little flat and... well, dull.) And when it comes to the idea of "change" in Washington, he comes off as a bit of a squatter.
Relevant? He didn't cover a lot of new ground. Clearly he's attempting to distance himself from the current administration, and using his themes (war hero, agent of change) to appeal to conservatives and moderates alike. As a result, he feels a little all over the board to me.
Overall rating: Like last week, where you stand on this ranking depends on where you sit. I'll give him a generous 1 out of 5 stars.
CK: "In a word, I found McCain humble. In opening with praise for his opponent to speaking of how he was 'blessed with misfortune,' his story of transformation from being his own man to 'one of his country', was heartening. McCain was on-message and his staunch dedication to 'Country First' is absolutely believable.
And therein lies the rub.
Because I am not sure if the target audience (the undecided moderate segment) believes that this message is really so different than the one they've bought into before. Moreover, in McCain we have a war hero that honors traditional principles yet he's also a "Maverick"...that's a very difficult positioning to grasp (being military and maverick seem to 'oppose one another'). I want to give McCain props for being at his most accessible--and offering the strongest blend of stories he's delivered to date--but I'm still not sure that the right is conveying the right brand message. 3 stars"
Drew McLellan: "Brands are about storytelling and connecting emotionally. John McCain served up a doozy of a brand-centric speech.
Brand McCain is a blend of country first/war hero (traditional) and political maverick (non traditional). A delicate duo to balance. His demeanor and message during his speech were calm, collaborative and hopeful. He didn't shout, pound or threaten. He was the seasoned hero who sacrificed for his country and is willing to do it again.
He also worked to demonstrate the maverick side of his brand. He joked about Washington's reaction to Palin and his own rule-breaking ways. He complimented his opponent and talked more about taking on the establishment and changing politics, than beating Obama.
Were his key messages consistent and ownable? They were uniquely brand McCain. He told his story and shared his vision.
What about relevance? The beauty of McCain's brand is the war hero appeals to the conservatives, while the maverick reaches out to the moderates. His speech packed plenty of stories for both.
He dipped his toes into the issues, but was smart enough to realize this speech wasn't about the platform, it was about momentum.
From a brand perspective, this speech was brilliantly constructed and executed. Star Score: 4.5""
Alan Wolk: "Sarah Barracuda Palin was a tough act to follow. Given the low expectations people had for her, she pretty much blew the country away. Even die-hard Democrats had to acknowledge that she gave a great speech.
McCain needed to blow the people away and keep the momentum going.
He had a few lines that worked .... "the party of Lincoln, (Teddy) Roosevelt and Reagan" but the focus of his speech-- the story of what happened to him as a POW in Hanoi is old news. Touching, gripping, heroic and admirable though it may be, it's old news to most of us. I mean it's the one thing most people know about him.
His message, as a result, was sort of all over the place. He should have gone with the whole "Team Maverick" theme and fully distanced himself from the current administration, thus completing a brilliant end-run by letting Obama and Biden attack Bush/Cheney while he and Palin ran as NotBush/Cheney.
But he didn't. He wavered. He was not the electrifying "maverick" speaker the night called for. He was sober and solemn and frankly sort of boring.
I'd give the performance 3 out of 5 stars."
Now that you've heard from Brand McCain–and heard from us–what say YOU? How do you rate his acceptance speech, and why? Again, if you'd like to read our commentary on Obama's speech, please just go here.
PS: To review the text of McCain's acceptance speech please click here.
Take the first step (it's free).
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