Most of the media has been taken in by the shiny and glitzy Obama campaign that progressed like a product release with carefully selected design themes, viral marketing, concerts, celebrity appearances and carefully controlled media relations. The media were taken in by it, in large part because the political press today is short on real reporters and long on media reporters who rarely leave a studio, work hard on their makeup and have very little understanding of what it takes to actually win an election. They relate to Obama so well, because their image is based as much on shiny corporate branding as he is.
The media has become increasingly clueless about elections because the media has become increasingly out of touch with the real world outside their own bubble. To them image is reality and they can never understand why the candidate that they relate to most doesn't win.
The problem is that real politics has very little to do with the kind of hollow style over substance displays that characterize the Obama campaign. The media has confused advertising with winning, when advertising is simply one tool to achieve a larger objective, victory at the polls. For Obama, the medium has become the message. "Vote for Obama because he has style and image" is how the message goes now as the Obama image machine devours its own tail.
The McCain campaign has matched its tactics to Obama's weakness, image over substance, hammering away at his ego, lack of experience and substance, rolling out one ad after another at high velocity. The supposedly technocratic Obama campaign's response by contrast has been painfully slow and clumsy. It's a flaw that the Obama campaign telegraphed against Hillary Clinton as it adapted slowly and clumsily to fight her.
The Obama campaign has prided itself on being huge, on producing massive events, on rolling out Obama across America. Where the media saw that as a strength, the McCain campaign saw a weakness, a bloated style driven campaign wrapped up in its own self-glorification.
Where Obama's campaign was a triumph in marketing, McCain's campaign was a guerrilla war. Obama's people excel at branding and packaging, that's a corporate skill and corporations are notoriously slow and unwieldy when it comes to adapting their brand to a changing marketplace and reacting to attacks. McCain's people excel at war.
In the way of war, mobility is more important than visibility. McCain gets that while Obama's people still insist on treating a Presidential election like a rock concert. That's the difference between seasoned political operatives and marketers. The McCain campaign has flexibility and rapid response. The Obama campaign has grandeur and glitz.
Obama's people can package and sell a product, but have no adaptability when the fight gets tough. McCain is fighting a war and adapts to the battlefield.
Obama's people have a shiny product whose success they treat as inevitable and can't reach a decision because the buck doesn't stop with any one man. Obama isn't in control, he lacks the experience and leadership and too many powerful people are standing behind him in the wings pulling the strings. This resulted in the disastrous pick of Biden for VP, a man Obama himself is clearly not comfortable with.
The McCain campaign knows it has a very tough battle to fight but it does have a chain of command ending with one man. He has the experience and leadership to control his campaign, something Obama does not. That means that the campaign can reach decisions quickly, something the Obama campaign can't do.
In the campaign John McCain can do the one thing that Obama can't, lead. While Obama runs a corporate marketing campaign, McCain is running a hard nosed old line political campaign and so far he's winning. And despite the last few weeks the Obama campaign still doesn't get it. The orgy of the DNC convention, the frenetic media coverage, the greek forum, the celebrities and the glamor are mostly wasted effort and only gives McCain more raw meat to bite into.
As a marketing campaign Obama's people still haven't learned their lesson, that branding doesn't win elections. Not only has their candidate peaked too early, but his campaign needs to change dramatically in order to cope with McCain's guerrilla warfare.
McCain's people have demonstrated that they can hit hard and fast and move on, but it takes more to win an election than it does to win a war. Selling McCain to the public though is not difficult because unlike Obama he has the credentials and the image already and that's why he's gone negative.
The McCain campaign doesn't need to sell him as much as they need to unsell Obama. Obama's people have invested a lot of money into creating an inflated image of the man. But it takes much less effort to destroy an image than it does to build one up. A corporation can spend a 100 million on advertising only to have their image destroyed for a few dollars. Obama is experiencing that right now and like the corporations, his campaign has no real clue how to react.
Obama's people have demonstrated that they can sell a completely unqualified and unsuitable candidate over a qualified and suitable candidate purely through advertising and marketing in the Democratic primaries. But now they have to do it again to the entire nation with the element of surprise gone, with a candidate a lot of people are already tired of hearing about and against an opposing campaign that understands how to win elections, while they understand only how to promote a product.
This should be good.