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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Marketing the Presidency: Obama - Stewart

Hey Barry:

Caught your talk on the Daily Show.

Here's a link: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/2010/10/about-late-last-night-jon-stewart-presses-president-obama-on-the-daily-show-1.html

Overall great job on the show. And, overall great job on the Presidency - I agree with your assessment on the actions you have taken so far.

But, the discussion last night brings up a question: Why is the public perception of the accomplishments behind the reality?

The answer last night seemes to be that folks have expectations that the actions will happen in 18 months. That is why there is a drop in your popularity and approval.

That's OK Barry, as far as it goes, but I just don't think that's good enough.

I think part of your job is to manage expectations. And it seems that you have done a mediocre to poor job at that.

A related example can be found in marketing cars. In the 1980's people had low expectations of a car, so the poor 'quality' cars produced then matched the expectations and sold reasonably well.

Today, car buyers have much higher expectations when they buy a car. If a car does not have all the features buyers expect today, they judge it as a poor 'quality' car, although it may be ten times better than a car from 30 years ago.

The market's expectations of car 'quality' have moved a lot.

It is similar to people's expectations of a 'quality' Presidency. Those expectations have moved a lot since 2008. And that is due in large part to you, Barry Obama: you have raised people's expectations of what it means to be a 'quality' President.

The reason that I place quotation marks around the word 'quality' is that I believe that 'quality' is an elusive concept. The best way to measure 'quality' IMHO is to measure what are the expectations about the subject and to compare how the product - or the Presidency - compares to the expectations.

If I am correct in my belief that your raising expectations of your Presidency has contributed to the current lower approval ratings, then there are at least two possible approaches you might take.

One approach would be to lower expectations. This is what Bush was so good at. He created the expectation that he was a complete klutz; nobody noticed what he was doing because they were all marveling at the idea that he actually was able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

I think this would be a mistake.

Another approach would be to sell the positives more aggressively while noting the difficulties you had to overcome to achieve each positive.

For example, you might say this: 'My administration has successfully overcome fierce Republican resistance to increased government regulation and has created and passed financial reform that is really helping people. As only one example, today we are looking carefully at each bank's home mortgage foreclosure process to ensure that each bank follows the new regulations. This will have the effect of preventing many unfair and/or illegal foreclosures. It will also help prevent a second, more severe recession - the Double Dip that many of you are concerned about. And make no mistake, if we did not have the new legislation, we would have a double dip recession.'

If this approach makes sense, then it seems likely that your administration will need some more aggressive Public Relations people who specialize in marketing your Presidency.

One of the reasons that the financial regulation legislation passed is that you and your staff made it a priority, as compared to some other legislation which you did not make a priority and which did not do as well as a result.

Bottom line is this Barry - you gotta sell yourself harder. And, it won't hurt to get some professionsl PR folks on the team - market your Presidency the same way General Motors sells Cadillacs or Chevys.

We need you to do that, Barry.

Your pal,

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