Professor Quelch suggests that if political candidates want to have a relationship with their voters, they do need to look more to commercial marketing for expertise on how to reach their audience in a meaningful way.
Does this cheapen politics?
I believe it strengthens it as those 20% of hard core voters will still read the New York Times tables of comparisons on each position and cast their vote.
But what about those apathetic voters who just don't think their vote matters? If there's a simple, fast quick way to make a much more meaningful decision, will they be more likely to vote? Probably. So less intense voters might not be more informed on the details but at least their attention is being attracted, even if it's superficial.
I suppose the worry is that someone like an Arnold Schwarzenneger could thrill and entrap a mass, dumb electorate with a flashy, "I'll be back" type of message that draws in the fools who do not "get" how hard running a goverment can be.
I think people are smarter than that - even those who are not educated past Grade 5.
Watching the Democratic race, you can see that Clinton wants voters to understand that she gets the work done. Her true core competence is managing the process of politics - administering the nation. Marketing the Democratic vision is simply not her strength - getting her goals achieved are much more her strong suit. Just as Starbucks is about giving you an interesting cup of coffee - it has to weave an entire story around what buying that coffee also brings. They have done that very well which is why the brand endures and is accepted even at The Great Wall of China. Hilary also needs to create her surrounding story as we experience a Clinton administration. Her Youtube ad with Bill and her imitating the season finale of The Sopranos was a good start, but her marketing needs to go beyond her, just as Starbucks goes beyond your cup of coffee.
Marketing the Starbucks way is tough to achieve because commercial marketing brings complex back stories to consumers' short attention spans in a two minute commercial of great wit.
The Microsoft Apple ads come to mind with the two characters creating an image of the products. Clinton and Obama are also two characters. As a side note, Hilary is smiling and being vivacious but someone tell her to lower her chin as she spends too much time looking down her nose.
Here in Canada, I enjoy USA politics. For me, the marketing on Youtube has been useful. Also getting space on TV that goes to Canada; CNN Anderson Cooper is doing a great job with his candidates' public forums and this is the right direction. I have got to know more about the politicians than my own and both Hilary and Obama are brand favourites for me - even though I would be probably be more for smaller government, less taxes. I am watching their many victory speeches and those moments of truth are probably the best marketing opportunities.
So America actually markets its emerging, new presidents to the world far better than any other country, even France with its super model first lady!
Commercial marketing of politicians with strong branding support - much like Starbucks - has other benefits for America too. Audiences in other countries such as Canada or India get to learn more about American values, what you think about yourselves and your priorities. We get past the stereotypes and get to see you are a complex, thoughtful nation of debaters not afraid to stand up and confront each others ideas and positions. This just does not happen or get accepted by a large portion of our world's politicians - good luck finding Robert Mugabwe's last debate in the government of Zimbabwe, for example. America's politicians and their long campaigns are inspiring - so keep on sharing with the world.