With the ad spend for this year’s mid-term elections now pegged at $3 billion, some people might argue that Marketing, the industry of people and companies that specialize in selling things, already rules the world.
But as my wife and I blipped our way through the morass of political ads blanketing the election eve news last night–we regularly TiVo the news and watch it 30 minutes late to avoid the ads–my wife said something that really got me thinking: What if we could click to vote?
Because I’m something of a geek at heart my first thought was: How would that work? What kind of encryption would be required? How would the three pillars of security–confidentiality, integrity, and availability–be supported? However, these practical concerns soon gave way, possibly due to the smooth Pinotage that I was sipping, to a wider question: What would voting from our computers–or smartphones, iPods, slates, tablets, whatever–do to the Marketing industry?
As I thought about this–and tried to keep at bay some troubling flashbacks to Max Headroom and blipverts–I wondered if the growing sophistication of digital marketing, the ability to constantly test, tweak, and optimize your messaging, would work to the advantage of the candidates or the voters.
I realize there is a whole graduate thesis or three in this topic, so I will just share my top line thoughts: The best digital marketing creates a highly efficient feedback loop by which marketers are able to fine tune messaging for maximum conversion, and that shifts power into the hands of the audience, the target, the consumer, or in this case, the voter.
While it is Marketing that forms the loop, it is the target that provides the feedback. In that sense Marketing does not control the feedback, it becomes the voice of the target. Marketing is no longer top down: Buy this, you’ll love it! Marketing is now, as so many experts have pointed out, a conversation: Look what we offer, do you like it?
Companies and people that have products or services to sell are still free to offer us original and edgy, or traditional and comfortable, or anything in-between. And the consumer is free to like or dislike, give it five stars or one. The world of commerce has always been that way, but in the world of eCommerce things happen much faster and with much better documentation.
Apply this to politics and you might think that the inevitable result is a bunch of feckless politicians who simply change their message to match the feedback. We may see a lot of that these days, but I don’t think it is inevitable. I think it is still possible to start with a goal, such as “a good life for all,” map a path to achieving that goal, and then put the goal and the path, and yourself, to the test. Marketing’s role would then be two-fold:
- Tell you what you need to know: Is the goal shared? Is your path credible? Are you credible to lead people down that path?
- Tell you how to convey, with maximum effectiveness, your message, that is: Your goal, your path, your credibility.
Doing all of that digitally could prove to be a lot more efficient, with more reliable and more widely-embraced results, than the pouring of billions of dollars into TV ads that people blip past with their DVR remotes.
In the positive digital scenario, Marketing does not rule the world, it helps the world rule itself, more efficiently, and more in tune with what its citizens really want.
Do you agree? Is this scenario feasible or simply fantasy?
Please leave a comment to let me know what you think. Or not. But please, do the one thing we can all do today to make politics work better: Please vote!