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From “Bear in the Woods”

Friday, December 19, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

A missive from my favorite conservative ad man, “Bear in the Woods”


It was quite the barrage you had going on the blog before you disabled comments. That’s the thing about social media: You know what people think of your efforts almost instantly. With traditional methods, and before the web, it took longer. Which is one of the key differences — social media allow you to, and actually demand that, you think on your feet.

There was one comment on the post that struck a chord. I agree with it, in a qualified way, though. The commenter pointed out that marketing is, first and foremost, about the product. He contends the GOP didn’t have a good product to begin with, and therefore, the communication, while bad, didn’t matter.

I agree — marketing is, first and foremost, about the product. David Ogilvy said, “Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.” What he meant by that is: Advertising can persuade people to buy a product — but once they do, if they find out it’s junk, they won’t buy it again, and they’ll tell their friends not to, either. Word of mouth about a bad product trumps any “official” marketing you could do for it. It was true then, and it’s true now — except that now, “word of mouth” is really “word of web” and it travels farther faster than Ogilvy could have dreamed. Twitter is rocket fuel.[# More #]

I’ll concede that the GOP’s product this past election cycle wasn’t great.

But I’ll also submit that neither was the opposition’s product. At least, not if you looked beneath the surface communication. But most voters didn’t. Which is why I qualified my agreement with the comment.

Your product is defined exactly as your customers define it. No two ways about it. You can’t force them to think good things, and their definition of your product is almost certainly different than yours. Their definition wins, always. You can try to shape their definition through persuasive communication — but only when they choose to listen. Advertising and similar forms of marketing communication are designed to do just that — help shape consumers’ definitions of your product. Social media have simply redefined the methods by which marketers attempt that, from a tactical standpoint. But strategically speaking, social media, just like other forms of communications (new and old) used in marketing, depend heavily on what most ad agencies call the Big Idea. Mad Ave speak for a broad creative/strategic concept, the Big Idea is more than just the thing that defines your communications. For the duration of any marketing campaign (and hopefully, longer,) for all practical purposes, the the Big Idea is supposed to define your product (the way you want it defined) in the minds of consumers.

The Democrats’ Big Idea, of course, was: Change. Does it describe the product? Depends on how you look at it. Does it describe a benefit in detail? Not really. “Change” didn’t articulate positions, or offer anything of substance. But it was a Big Idea, because it defined the product in an emotional way for millions of voters. And it got them to buy. I wonder if Ogilvy’s rule will cause many to regret their purchase. We’ll only know after we have an opportunity to experience the product.

The job of a political campaign for a non-incumbent is the same as the job of an advertising campaign for a new product: Encourage trial purchase. In order to experience the product, consumers (voters) first have to buy it. Experience with it comes after the election. Everything that comes before the election is simply opinion and theory, which makes it more susceptible to persuasive messaging, and means it is, in fact, defined by communications.

I’m not advocating that the Right abandon intelligent and reasoned positioning, or frank and truthful discussion of the issues. I don’t think the GOP should reduce all it stands for to a single catchphrase. Far from it. I’m simply pointing out that people — many, many people — buy, live, and vote based upon more elemental criteria. And of all those criteria, emotion is the most powerful. Not only do the Democrats understand how to use social media and other forms of new communications better than the Republicans — they understand how to craft an emotionally appealing message better, too — regardless of medium. If we expect to win, we’d better learn.

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The Bush Lifeline

Friday, December 19, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The decision by President Bush to throw a lifeline to the Big 3 has been expected. The tipped hand probably led to the inability of the Senate Republicans to gain crucial concessions from the automakers and the unions during the failed negotiations of last week.

This seems to me to be a much preferred approach that cedes the long-term issue to the new administration, and the president-elect will be able to factor assistance to the car companies into his legislative program for the new year. Lame duck presidents and lame-duck Congresses should do as little as possible to limit a new president’s agenda, fresh as he is from a solid win and a shift to the left in the Congress. Senate Republicans have got to be prepared to fight for sobriety in January and February, and their principled positions of this month allow them to do that. President Bush’s intervention provides his successor with all the options available.

This is cautious, responsible governance by a responsible president seeking to make his successor’s transition as smooth as possible.

Blagojevich Will Get All Of the Emanuel Tapes

Wednesday, December 17, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

I asked this morning if Blagojevich would get the tapes of Emanuel’s conversations with him (which can then be leaked as payback or for leverage.) Answer, from a federal prosecutor: Yes. The e-mail:


Answer-once Blago is indicted, he’s 100% entitled to the recordings.

Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure:

“(a)(1)(B) Upon the defendant’s request, the government MUST DISCLOSE to the defendant, and make available for inspection, copying, or photographing, all of the following:

n Any relevant written or recorded statement by the defendant.

Wiretap recordings are among the first things demanded by defense lawyers in wiretap cases. They get the whole recording, not just their client’s portion, because they need the entire conversation in order to fully understand the context of what was being discussed.

So, yes, Blago’s lawyers are going to get complete copies-not just transcripts-of everything Emanuel said to him.

And, I’m guessing that Fitzgerald has not shared with the Obama administration what it is Emanuel has been recorded as saying, thus the complete silence by Emanuel since this issue broke into the press. He can’t say anything now for fear that there is a recorded conversation that will contradict him.

UPDATE: I wonder what the National Enquirer will pay for the the Blago Defense Fund for first serializiation rights for the tapes.

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