McCain and Republicans must surpass the online edge that Obama has had. It will happen with oppositional branding. In the past, Republicans gained political power with a strong technological edge over the Democrats by pioneering techniques such as direct-mail messages to voters and dominating talk radio and viral emails and pyramid fundraising efforts using peer-to-peer bundling. Beginning with Howard Dean's campaign, Republicans fell behind in the area of internet strategies and now are being out-raised, outspent and outmaneuvered online. Many have attributed Obama's success in the primaries to the army of young activists mobilized online (with $250 million raised via the internet).
McCain and Republicans are quickly mobilizing for an online battle for hearts and minds. They know how to do oppositional branding and hold a strong edge and the effort has launched big big time. Once an image is created it is hard to redo or overpower. Republicans have harnessed, neurologically, fear associations. Be scared is the two-word talking point, in general. Who do you trust an how will voting decisions be made? Trust is the ultimate key word. Will facts and details make it through the tsunami of information against our short attention spans? Will politics be infotainment (short on info, strong on entertainment).
Looking at the online trends, McCain is edging up in news references, as of yesterday on Google Trends.
Nixon and Kennedy campaigned on the idea of being media appealing on tv. The political trend has changed:
...it is no longer sufficient to just be TV mediagenic, for the political center of gravity is shifting from the waning mass media world of TV to the emergent personal media world of the Web and cyberspace. To win, candidates must now be "cybergenic" — able to surf, blog, IM and twitter their way into the hearts of activist "netizens."
The Willie Horton ad maker has online ways to attack Obama; an email army being recruited
via ExposeObama.com to create viral email campaigns to frame Obama as a disatrous-for-the-county left-of-left liberal. The effort is noteworthy because studies have shown that peer-to-peer communication of political ideas and opinions is more influential than TV ads in swaying voters' perceptions of candidates and Republicans, with the age group, has been receptive to viral emails. Obama will fight back with an online rumor clearinghouse, fightthesmears.com, to refute stories on his faith, his family and his rumored connections with controversial figures. Obama supporters are asked to help hunt down and quash these stories, but are the social networks able to go toe-to-toe? Will younger voters have resonance to reach older voters with email they "get"?
Steve Rubel's advertising agency did a study that showed that we trust in our peers (much of this is based on the theories of influentials by Italian Antonio Gramsci) and peer influence is most important in our decision making. The chart reflects the study results: Some 58% of opinion elites 35-64 in 18 countries said they trust "a person like me." Meanwhile, only 14% trust bloggers - a figure that has largely remained flat since 2006.
But what will happen with the younger demographics, the ones who don't rely on email and tivo through the tv ads and listen to music on iPods and not talk radio?
Bloomberg yesterday had an article on the new efforts being made for McCain:
Republican party officials are "over the age of 35 or 40... and unwilling to be anything but a modern ostritch," says one of the co-founders of an online site that helps Republicans raise money RealWorldRepublicans.com, targeted at 18-to-29-year olds.
Obama, 46, has 953,000 Facebook backers to McCain's 142,000, according to techPresident.com, a Web site that tracks such support. On MySpace, Obama has 394,000 supporters, more than seven times the number McCain has. On YouTube, the Internet video site, Obama videos have been viewed 50 million times compared with 4 million for the 71-year-old McCain.
Last October, he launched Slatecard.com to aid Republican candidates in raising funds online, an effort to answer ActBlue.com, a Democratic site founded in 2004.
He has a way to go. Slatecard has collected just $375,000 so far, while ActBlue claims it has raised almost $50 million in the last four years.
Advertising Age noted that Obama had the best media strategy overall compared to Clinton and Obama won the user-generated media channel decisively. The age gap for the political zeitgeist will be the one to watch. The viral impact of the "I got a crush ... on Obama" video by "Obama Girl" and its various spinoffs enjoyed more than 60 million views on YouTube but for the older Republicans, the emails are powerful and viral and Obama has had a hard time countering these.
Talking points are the provenance of the Republicans. This is where the substance edge and opposition branding is a Republican strength. Social media is less strategic than neurological and semantical communications with the Republican attack vehicles for marketing.
Below is the attack ad being marketed virally off of the new website ExposeObama.com to create an image Obama will have to fight to overcome. Republicans branded Kerry as a flip-flopper before he could position himself differently. The marketing and branding battle is on to capture hearts and minds. Who do you trust? Will facts and subtance be important, or will it all be brief images and talking points and soundbites?