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January 2011

A Rebuttal of the Rebuttal

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...Image via Wikipedia

As marketers, we can learn a great deal about persuasion and language from the State of the Union address and the Republican rebuttal. The way the conversation unfolds, the tone of the speech, the reaction of pundits and congress all set the tone or context for how Americans will interpret all kinds of messages, from the political to those used by marketers to sell products and services.

In terms of context, it's clear that American's are tired of blame, tired of the lack of respect politicians have for their money, and a need to get American back on track.  We want to accelerate our recovery and prepare the country to be successful in the future.  What happened in the past shouldn't be repeated, because we're moving on.  Take out the pork and replace it with ideas of substance.

When President Obama got up to the microphone, instead of telling us what we didn't do, what we should have done, he focused on the future.  How we are going to create more jobs and meet the challenges of education, energy etc.  Obama hit his leadership stride by the end of the speech, by taking the highroad, talking about our "Sputnik Moment" and move to renewable energy.  He stayed out of the weeds and spoke to our aspirations.  

As a listener it's interesting how we all grabbed onto the "Sputnik moment" and can't recall a thing about the bogged down details in the middle of the speech.

For the most part, President Obama read the mood of the country right.  The country wants reconciliation, and we want our leaders to work together(or at least pretend).  They even sat together for the speech.  The country is ready for progress, and for a brief moment, it appeared as if congress got it. In fact, by Congress sitting in an intermingled way, President Obama became our American president instead of a Republican or Democratic President.

That is, until Congressman Paul Ryan's Republican rebuttal.  Now, to give him credit, he started big.... for about 5 seconds.  My expectations were that he would talk about fiscal conservatism as a way to get the country on a path for growth.  He'd be glad to hear about President Obama's desire to do big things, and how Republicans want to go even further.  If President Obama was planning to solve the energy crisis, Ryan was going to solve the energy crisis and more.  

After rightly acknowledging Congresswoman's Gabrielle Gifford's shooting, he started out strong.....

"As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, I assure you that we want to work with the President to restrain federal spending. In one of our first acts in the new majority, House Republicans voted to cut Congress's own budget. And just today, the House voted to restore the spending discipline that Washington sorely needs. The reason is simple. A few years ago, reducing spending was important. Today, it's imperative. Here's why. We face a crushing burden of debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy, and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead. On this current path, when my three children - who are now 6, 7, and 8 years old - are raising their own children, the Federal government will double in size, and so will the taxes they pay. No economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation. The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country. Frankly, it's one of my greatest concerns as a parent - and I know many of you feel the same way."

Still not particularly visionary, but nothing to disagree with.  Now here's where there was some hope, Republicans and Democrats working together...

"Our debt is the product of acts by many presidents and many Congresses over many years. No one person or party is responsible for it.

There is no doubt the President came into office facing a severe fiscal and economic situation."

After this I said wow, they are really going to step up.  To share responsibility (good or bad) for the spending of the past.  I'm thinking, I could really like this guy......until he said...

"Unfortunately, instead of restoring the fundamentals of economic growth, he engaged in a stimulus spending spree that not only failed to deliver on its promise to create jobs, but also plunged us even deeper into debt.

The facts are clear: Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25% for domestic government agencies - an 84% increase when you include the failed stimulus.

All of this new government spending was sold as "investment." Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9% and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt.

Then the President and his party made matters even worse, by creating a new open-ended health care entitlement.

A swing and a miss. We went from President Obama and his vision for a great America to Paul Ryan giving us a history lesson on past mistakes.  Instead of telling us of what is possible (how about growing GDP so that tax rates naturally rise), he told us what we will lose.  His speech was about the bad Democrats and how Republicans were going to undo what they did....a message exactly contrary to what we were hoping to hear.

I"m not trying to espouse the Democratic or Republican agenda or point of view.  Simply to point out that context drives acceptance and persuasion.  Here, the context was achievement and fatigue with blame. Into that context Congressman Ryan failed to deliver.  He failed to anticipated what his audience was willing to accept.  His failure is the failure of the Republican party (check out, the Republican National Committee website, anyone want to buy a "I Fired Pelosi" T-shirt).

What does the future hold for Paul Ryan? I bet that instead of being invited to the next Tea Party, he'll be sitting on the sidelines, wondering why the next Reagan of his party passed him by.


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Affiliate Summit West Exceeds Expectations Once Again

Company logoImage via Wikipedia

Affiliate Summit is one of those trade shows where you never quite know what to expect.  While Shawn Collins and Missy Ward always put on a good show, the changing nature of the industry brings a new flavor to the event each time I attend (can someone say Groupon).

Affiliate Summit West 2011 was my first time attending the West Coast version of the show (it also occurs on the East Coast each summer).  This was my first show where I attended both as a reporter for this blog and as a merchant, providing an entirely new perspective.

As a merchant, there were a couple of highlights, the important of which was the ability to meet with some of the companies we are thinking of partnering with to implement an affiliate program.  It was incredible to be able to meet with a few OPMs (outsourced program managers), Google (Dan and Dan), CJ (Mr. CJ - Paul Murphy) and ShareASale (Jason "SEO" Rubaky). 

I appreciated the expert round tables and the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Adam Riemer.  Adam is one of those subject matter experts that live and breathe affiliate marketing.  He captivated a group of merchants and had us hanging on every word as he advised us on how to avoid fraud, and provided some ideas for managing a strong affiliate program. He is one of those people where I wish I knew a small faction of what he knows.

I also appreciated the sessions, particularly with Adam Waldman, VP Marketing and Strategy at Merchant Warehouse, as they focused on the challenges of launching and managing a B to B affiliate program.  Another highlight and always worth the price of admission is the Guru of SEO, Wil Reynolds, who shared how SEO strategy has changed more in the past year than it has in the past 5.  Wil described the impact of local search and brand on high demand keywords.  Wil provides an incredible amount of information  and isn't shy to share his latest SEO toolset.  Scott Jangro, Eric Nagel and Joe Sousa also did a great job demystifying data feeds.

I even won at the craps table (all that practice on the Droid paid off), capping an event that was cut short by Delta Airlines and their obsession with beating a snow storm heading to New York.

Affiliate Summit East will be held August 21 - 23, 2011 in New York.  I'd suggest anyone involved in the digital marketing, ppc, seo, affiliate or merchant space attend.  Note that the show always is a sell out several weeks in advance, so I suggest booking now.  Let's meet up at the show.


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Every Company Needs a Meeting Fairie

Image representing Seth Godin as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBase

Great post by Seth Godin today where he suggests that every company appoint a meeting fairy.  The idea is to appoint someone in the organization who is charged with organizing and managing meetings.  It ensures that that best practices for meetings (clear purpose/agenda/handouts, presentations/outcomes) are assigned. 

I bet it could save companies millions and save employees the wastful pain of meetings that go to long and accomplish too little.

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Buying is Personal

The icon used by Apple to represent Podcasting.Image via Wikipedia

I highly recommend taking a few minutes to listen to the podcast by Walter Edgar and his guest, author Gene Bedell.  In the interview, Mr Bedell discusses his books Three Steps to Yes and Millionaire in the Mirror (my favorite career guide).

The author discusses the axiom that "all buyers are liars." He points out that they are not really liars, they just cannot articulate what they are really looking for vs. what they think they are looking for. As an example, when looking for a house, buyers often describe what they want based on situational needs (# of rooms, bathrooms, kitchen etc.), when in fact most real estate decisions are based on personal needs (what will my mother in law think, how will my friends see the purchase, does it help my self esteem).  The physical attributes of the home are situational needs, when in fact, the buyers is seeking to fulfill multiple personal needs.

Mr. Bedell also discusses the need for identifying benefits that are meaningful to the prospect.  He tells the story of his son who refused to brush his teeth in an act of defiance.  Gene would discuss the health benefits of dental care to no avail.  However, when he mentioned to his son that he had bad breath, and that girls in school would make fun of him and run away, his son raced to the toothbrush.

In his review of his other book,"Millionaires in the Mirror", Mr. Bedell discusses what makes some people more successful than others.  The book is a study of the top 1% of earners and the characteristics that they have in common.  He points out that success is not necessarily related to your college or SAT score, but to your ability to manage your career, career focus, and the ability to know when to step out of your comfort zone.

The full podcast can be found here on Walter Edgar's Journal.


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2011 Trends

JWTImage via Wikipedia

Great presentation by JWT on 2011 trends to watch.  The top 10 are:

1. 3D Digital Printing (a printer that creates a 3D dimensional model based on a computer generated illustration. Very cool.

2. Africa's Middle Class

3. Apps beyond mobile

4. (introduces you to different artists/styles based on your tastes)

5. Auto apps

6. Automatic Check ins

7. Bamboo

8. Banks branch out

9. Banner Ads do more

10. Beer Sommeliers

You can see the full list of 2011 trends here.

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