Don’t Kill the Category!
Apple. Google. Amazon. Home Depot (still). eBay? Category Killers. Okay, maybe not all – but that’s the traditional idea…. That’s not what this opinion is about.
Killing the Category
Thomas Friedman made reference to it on CNBC recently (LINK). It’s an old mantra on Madison Avenue – Mad Men makes passing references en total. Basically, Ford doesn’t come out and say directly that General Motors cars are death traps – and vice versa. Pepsi doesn’t market the fact that Coca-Cola will make you fat. Subway doesn’t say overtly that McDonald’s will clod your arteries. And Bon Ami doesn’t really tell the story of how Comet will destroy the finish on your sink.
Of course, all of these brands might imply such things about their competition. But they do it with a positive message – they all say something positive about themselves and what they can do for you, the consumer. They all appeal to the “What’s in it for me?” Because that’s really all the consumer cares about.
Not so for Barack Obama & Mitt Romney. The message is almost entirely, 100% negative. No positive spin. No, “Here’s what I can do for you!” So, what happens when the message becomes so completely negative? People stop eating hamburgers. They stop drinking cola. They stop driving & start taking mass transit. They stop cleaning their sinks…. Uh, well maybe not the last one. But there’s the idea.
Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?
Or, rather Roger Ailes. Yes, there was the Willie Horton ad (which Ailes denies being a part of). But there were counterbalancing positive messages over the years. Or, even take a Dick Morris, James Carville, George Stephanopoulos or Ed Rollins…. Lots of harsh language, criticisms of the competition; perhaps even brutal discourse? Yes. But 100% negative?
Go back in American history: Alexander Hamilton, adviser to President Washington…. Abigail Adams…. Abraham Lincoln’s many advisers…. Louis Howe…. Of course, David Plouffe at least had the Hope & Change message, which of course, has little substance in regards to, “What’s in it for me?” (although Hope is a real thing, it doesn’t really put change in one’s pocket – to paraphrase James Carville, “It’s the economy, stupid”).
So, where is Madison Avenue in the Campaign of 2012? Sort of nowhere. And the Category – the U.S. Political System – is pretty close to killed. But have Hope, there’s bound to be another Clara Peller on the horizon! (YouTube Video.)
Respond to Nathan Ayers below. Or, click here for his website.