Saturday, January 19, 2008

The soap powder election campaign

So I’ve made it pretty clear now that I find the way US politics is played out to be a little strange. It is a major election year, and starts out by reinforcing everyone’s worst fears – that all politicians are a waste of space. Well that is what you are hearing, overtly or by inference as each presidential candidate fights for supremacy.

The methodology of washing powder marketing is not a good fit for political campaigning, but here it is for all to see. Market segmentation it is called, and is essentially used by a corporation to capture every segment of the market.

It works like this: Suds Corp start out with a powerful product, guaranteed to make your whites whiter than white, no problem! Well not until we find some consumers object to their whites disintegrating after a few washes, some are looking for something with perhaps a little more finesse.

They want visible clean, but they want their clothes as well. So Suds Corp come up with a second brand which answers the consumers who are looking for a powerful cleaner which might be just a little more subtle. We won’t ask how they do it, but Suds Corp now have two products on the shelves, essentially competing.

Then we find consumers who want even more, they want clean clothes perhaps, but not necessarily whites – there are coloureds in the mix as well and these consumers also want to wash in cold water. No worries Suds Corp, they can spin out another product to meet these finicky consumers.

Of course the flakes have been dealt with for a while now, not seriously, but those who really want the kinder, gentler action are catered for. Then Suds Corp become aware that more consumers are turning to those previously ignored laundry liquids. Yes, they are taking this range seriously all of a sudden.

No worries for Suds Corp, these products aren’t really competing, they are just variations of the same product which ensure our soap maker the greatest share of the overall market. The branding is easy for each product, Suds Corp is not really featured but they know from research that their segment target brand is optimised for success.

The same consumers are also choosing their political leaders. The branding is fine, that works well in politics, unfortunately the Corp name is still in bold for each of these products (candidates) trying to catch the market edge.

It doesn’t really matter to Suds Corp if the whiter than white product slumps, so long as one of the others picks up the market share. They can promote each segment without danger because consumers have already decided they are looking for a different result. The Corp doesn’t need to launch negative promotions against their own competing products.

It doesn’t quite work that way in politics. Segmentation marketing in a political campaign seems to be a very dangerous and negative approach.

I first met the approach in Tasmania, where the PR electoral system is geared to the candidate rather than the party. As a party campaign worker I thought it an extraordinarily destructive approach then, and I still do.


Josie said...

Omigosh! What a great analogy. It's really sad to see the competion between the candidates deteriorating daily. They're playing for the same team, for goodness sake, and yet their carryings on almost guarantee the other team will win. It's painful to watch.

TomCat said...

Cartledge, that analogy shows genuine insight, and I'm appalled to see dirt on the Democratic side, even if it does not approach the level on the Republican. Sleazy campaigning should be © GOP. They're so much better at it.

Sadly, it could be so much better if our broadcast media would cover issues instead of infotainment and infoganda. But the US public is equally to blame, expecting to be spoon-fed, rather than researching the issues themselves.

Cartledge said...

I thank yu for the kind comments. All i can say is that in trying to understand the strange dynamics an analogy beats the hell out of just getting angry.
I think we all want something better from our democracies, in the US, Canada, here downunder...
I don't object to candidate segmentation, it has democratic overtones, but only if it is used to enhance choice.