Saturday, February 16, 2008

Obama and "Selling The Sizzle"

Please take a moment and read this short essay from Marketing Comet that I've copied below. It will tell you a ton about political campaigns.

Sell The Sizzle Not The Steak

The phrase "Sell the sizzle not the steak" is an old sales aphorism that tells us something about human nature. The best sales people in the world understand human nature almost intuitively.
When we go to the store to buy a lightbulb we don't really want a lightbulb, we want the light it provides. When that bulb burns out - I curse the dark and buy another - for the light. I don't really care about the bulb itself.When we go out to eat (for steak or whatever) it's not for the food itself. Sure, I may be hungry, but really I have a lot of choices to satisfy my hunger. I choose a restaurant because it gives me the kind of experience I want and solves my hunger problem. Taste, smell, ambiance, location, service are just a few of the reasons I might choose a particular restaurant. And these things speak to my emotions through my senses.I don't just buy any car, I may buy a make I trust, a model that makes me feel sporty, a color I like, with a stereo system that makes me feel like I'm in a concert hall. I am not just buying a method of getting from one place to another - I am buying an experience. This is why car sales people always want to get you to test drive a car.What kind of experience do your customers want and how can you give it to them? Imagine I am selling you a new carpet. You have told me that you entertain a lot so you want something that will look nice but be durable. I can list a bunch of factoids about new Durablex Carpeting and how the poly-resin fibers resist staining 35% better than the competition .... blah blah blah. Snore.Or how about I ask you a few more questions designed to get you to imagine yourself having a good experience with them. "So when you are entertaining do you usually serve wine? Uh huh, let's say - at your next party - if one of your good friends should happen to spill a glass of wine on the rug neither the rug, nor the party, nor the friendship will be ruined and after a quick towel-up you can go on enjoying yourself- is that the kind of thing you're looking for?"I'm having you imagine a situation in the future where the product will be helpful and also where they're having a party and a good time. Of course I would customize the presentation based on information I had gathered at our initial conversation.Sell the sizzle not the steak. I don't buy a steak at a nice restaurant because it makes me feel full - I buy it for the expereince it promises. J D Moore - Marketing Comet

So, please understand that political campaigns are nothing more than intense advertising campaigns. Barack Obama is doing a masterful job of this. It is why he is filling arenas and stadiums across the country. The man isn't trying to convince you that his proposed programs and policies are what is right for this country. Rather, he is selling you the "sizzle", a tightly scripted image of the president that intended to make us feel good. Obama's folks have done a masterful job of researching every nuance of what folks think that their ideal president would be. Then Obama, a very charismatic speaker, simply regurgitates these concepts in his speeches. This is why in focus groups and news interviews you can't get anyone to point to anything that folks say Obama will actually do. This is why when folks are confronted with Obama's ultra liberal voting records in both the Illinois and US Senates they simply brush them aside with a comment about how good he makes us feel. To be sure, all presidential candidates do this. But none have ever done it to the extent that Obama has done--entirely focusing on the sizzle and not the steak. Will he be able to do this once the general campaigns begin? I doubt it. But who knows? He is charting new ground--a campaign of form and not content.

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