Brand Winners... Barack Obama & Retail

Brand Winners…

   And Losers

The Marketing Doctor says:

Winner: Barack Obama

Loser: Retail

This week’s brand winner and loser:

The Winner:

Barack Obama is our winner for all the obvious reasons, and for once the Marketing Doctor has nothing to add to the chorus of congratulations, praise and historic exclamations…

But I do have something to say about the question of keeping Barack Obama a winner once he assumes the mantle of president.

I have lived through enough election cycles to know that the best (and, unfortunately, the rarest) thing to happen to a presidential brand is to see the promise of its campaign endure and blossom in the presidency. 

This happens least when the brand elected does not behave like itself once he is sworn in or is so embattled that brand consistency and accountability is swamped. 

It happens most when the candidate listens to the people who sent him to the Oval Office and reflects and answers their expectations.

Barack Obama’s choice for Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, has his detractors, but a comment that he made in an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week is promising.

Emanuel is quoted as saying that the president must “Do what you got elected to do.”  He goes on to say this: “Do what you talked about on the campaign. If you got elected, that's what people expect. Don't go off on tangents where part of your party is demanding an ideological litmus test. Neither of those things was part of the campaign."

And then he says this in response to a question as to whether the United States is a center-right country: “The American people are unbelievably pragmatic. Have confidence in their pragmatism. It's the operating philosophy of our country."

Emanuel’s comments suggest that he understands that winning an election isn’t a mandate to stop real marketing —it is when the marketing really begins.  President Obama will need to continually listen to the electorate, respond to the pragmatic core and the center.  Real marketing —i.e., knowing your Target Market and its needs— will preserve the promise of the candidacy from the rigors of the presidency.

And now that the political silly season is over and we have our winner, the Marketing Doctor can leave politics for a while and get back to his bread and butter: business!

The Loser:

Retail.  Chain store sale numbers came out Thursday and they are awful —the worst since 1969. (I posted on the situation here.)

Fact is, I don’t have too much to add to what I’ve already written, but it’s such a serious problem, retail sales were this week’s obvious loser (even troubled GM didn’t muscle into first place)!

After posting, though, I read a bit more on the subject and found one article that I think is worth passing along.

It’s here, and basically argues that the fire sale discounts of the retailers going out of business before Christmas are going to hurt all the other retailers. 

Interesting to note, by the way, that a lot of the bankrupt retailers are going right into liquidation rather than reorganization because access to the credit that bankrupt companies would need to restructure is virtually non-existent. 

What this means is that whereas in the past restructuring companies would wait until after the holidays to declare bankruptcy, now they’re skipping Christmas and going right to the fire sales.  Even companies like Circuit City that might not be going out of business are shutting stores and offering deep discounts on the inventory in soon-to-be shuttered stores; and as any retailer knows, you simply can’t compete with a going-out-of-business sale.

The good news? Well, for one, times like this get us back to real marketing, the kind of marketing that drives sales and always considers the bottom line.  The retailers who have been doing this kind of marketing all along are going to survive this tight spot, and those who haven’t are going to have to learn real marketing quickly to squeeze by.

The main thing to remember in the period ahead is value for money.  Retailers are going to have to express that their brand, business, inventory is quality for less, and express this clearly.

As I said this past Thursday: when the market gets tough, the tough get marketing!

And remember, it’s always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


Marketing is about listening, listening, listening.


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