Why McCain’s online marketing sucked
I’m doing my first video post today, so I hope you’ll cut me a little slack. If you particularly enjoy the format, leave a comment down below. I couldn’t say everything I wanted to say without making it into a 12-minute video (the one below is 6 minutes), so I wrote about some of the other points I cut out while editing.
There’s no question that Obama’s marketing campaign was one of the most amazing, grandiose, and well-executed plans in the history of marketing. But I’m honestly tired of reading about it, so let’s talk about why McCain’s online campaign kinda sucked(*) and how you can avoid his mistakes.
First of all, McCain didn’t have a chance in this election from a marketing standpoint. You might be thinking, “Oh that’s easy to say now that Obama is president, hindsight’s 20/20, blah blah blah.” The reason I say that is because Obama was completely congruent with his marketing. Social networking, texting, Twitter, myBarackObama.com — all this stuff made sense. It felt like it was a natural extension of what he was trying to accomplish.
McCain’s marketing team, on the other hand, made a completely hollow attempt at some of the stuff Obama was doing. McCainSpace.com? Really? A 72-year old who doesn’t use email has his own social network? Give me a break. It was totally incongruous with who he was as a person. And yea, I know that he had to put up something in order to compete with Obama in the online world, but his site sucked compared to his opponent’s. They didn’t put much effort into setting it up… and it showed.
For instance, a lot of users reported getting error messages when trying to set up their profiles. Then once you registered with McCainSpace, there wasn’t really anything to do. You couldn’t pull other people in as easily as you could on myBarackObama, and it wasn’t a great experience. You didn’t feel like you were truly a part of something once you got in.
Unfortunately for McCain’s team, they were painfully unaware of how effective the internet is at word-of-mouth marketing when it is utilized correctly. As I said in my last post, online word-of-mouth is the cheapest, easiest, and most effective form of marketing on the planet. Obama’s team, however (which consisted of one of Facebook’s founders), was intimately familiar with the power and dynamics of social networks and highly filtered data. They used their site to empower Obama supporters — to enable them to set up meetings, print out certain kinds of flyers, find unregistered voters, etc. Obama gave his supporters the necessary tools they could use so that his campaign would win from the bottom up, and not the top down.
So what did we learn from the whole experience that you can apply to your company?
McCainSpace was a meatball sundae – it just wasn’t his style. It was a “me too” marketing attempt just so he could say he was doing what Obama was doing. Don’t do that. You don’t need to set up your own social network or have your own viral video just so you can be like your competitor. Ning, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, blogs, texting — it’s irrelevant which one you use because they’re just tools. Highly effective tools, but still just tools.
If a particular form of social media doesn’t mesh with your company and what you’re trying to accomplish, then don’t use it. If you’re not going to utilize that tool to the fullest extent, then don’t use it. Don’t make a superficial attempt at something just because others are doing it. Pick the tools that will work really well for you, that you’ll actually enjoy using frequently, and stick with those.
(*) And just to clarify: I am NOT saying McCain lost solely because of his marketing. I am saying his marketing efforts weren’t that good.