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August 31, 2007 | Tate Linden
rightsticker.jpgThe DSCC had a contest... and it feels like we, the people, lost.

So rather than continually complain (as I've done for the last couple days) I figured I'd fix the problem.

We're not waiting for a vote. We're goin' out there and developing a solution. To the left you'll see Stokefire's attempt at a bumper-sticker we'd actually like to see. So... we made it and are ordering them ourselves, damnit. You can order stuff by going here.

Feel free to order 'em and plaster your stuff (or maybe the neighbor's Hummer?) with 'em. We were full enough of ourselves to think that y'all might want bags, shirts, mugs, and stuff, too, so we're making those available.

Want to order mass quantities of something? Send us an email and we'll work with you to cut a deal. Licensing is available...

Tell the family, friends, and politicos... the Left may just have a workable slogan.

And if this actually earns money we will donate a significant portion of the profits to a platform-related charity or non-profit. If it comes to pass we'll let you know the percentages, amounts, and recipients.

165490142v2_240×240_front.jpg[Update: We're still fiddling with the wording... moving stuff around... playing with the degree of the left turn... look for tweaks over the next couple weeks. But buying now gets you an Original!]

[Update 2: We've added a different option for the text based on feedback. Now we're a little less cryptic.]
August 30, 2007 | Tate Linden
Looks like the DSCC has selected the four finalists to vote on. (See yesterday's post for context.)

They are:
  1. Sorry W - I'm The Decider
  2. Now You Know Why I'm a Democrat
  3. About Dem Time
  4. Look where voting republican has gotten us
Anyone feel moved?

Quick thoughts:
  1. The first concept references the President - even though he's not running for office. Why would we apologize to him - or use his language to justify voting Democrat? And weren't we all the "Deciders" last time (and the time before) when he won? If we're the deciders then we're worse at it than he is.
  2. The second concept makes little sense to me. I actually don't know why you're a Democrat - and the statement prevents me from asking any questions. We feel like an idiot for not knowing. Or at least I do. And the fact that the Dems already have the Senate (and haven't done a helluva lot with it) calls into question the entire statement. Lastly, I thought you voted Dem to prevent W from wreaking havoc. That's not an issue any more.
  3. About Dem Time? Cute. Slogan-like. A little bitter. And... Dems already have the Senate, so it sort of lacks punch. How can it be about Dem time when it has been Dem time for the last two years? Are we talking presidential, senatorial, or just general politics here?
  4. And the last? Where has voting republican gotten us? And why does it matter since most voters didn't vote that way in the last election? Sure there's the whole war debacle, but a Dem controlled Senate hasn't fixed it. On the plus side - if we did vote red last time then this is the only message that speaks to us. But it only has teeth if we voted red and regretted it.
We can do better.

Really.

Maybe if they started by telling us what the slogan was supposed to do for the party and the platform we could've produced something better... That of course would require the party to have someone who knew what the heck you could achieve with a slogan.

Agree? Disagree? Thoughts?
March 27, 2007 | Tate Linden
I don't know about the rest of you name and tagline experts, but I received about twenty emails from clients, friends, and yes, even my wife about this article in the Washington Post yesterday. It's a fun read.

Here's what my wife sent me this morning:
On the radio this morning [she listens to the local NPR affiliate], the 7:30 factie was a list of taglines suggested by a DC blogger as the new DC motto. (The current slogan is "Washington, D.C.: The American Experience") My favorites:

Washington, D.C.: Less of a target than New York

Washington, D.C.: Guns now welcome

Washington, D.C.: More bloggers than rats

Washington, D.C.: Come for the frisking, stay for the wanding

Washington, D.C.: Experience the Confluence of Willful Ignorance and Power
Nice find, Sarah!

...and if any of you are wondering - we're not one of the PR firms hired to do the tagline work. We're not even a PR firm. Actually, we're kind of wondering why a PR firm would be involved in something like this.

I'm 95% certain that no matter what the tagline ends up being it'll be so watered down by focus groups that it'll have lost all significance.

I'm thinkin': Washington DC - Putting the "us" in USA.

How's that for bland? I could probably go even more bland and flat given more time... Save some money on the focus group investment...

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 26, 2007
A Little Brittan. A Little Corner of New YorkAnyone walking east down Jane Street in the West Village yesterday morning would have known they were approaching the border. There were puddles on the road when the rest of Manhattan was bone dry and somebody had laid little sections of plastic lawn around the bottoms of all the trees. images-2.jpeg All right, we are a little ahead of ourselves here. Wrest yourself from your daydream and look at the little green street sign. It says Greenwich Avenue as it has done for generations. Never mind that the block is home to that little oasis inbase_image.jpegimages-11.jpeg Gotham of British comfort cuisine, Tea & Sympathy. But renaming the block Little Britain is, in fact, exactly what the owners of the restaurant, Nicky Perry and Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett, have in mind. They are quite serious. So serious, they launched a petition drive last week to persuaimages2.jpegde the local community board and the Mayor to allow them to do it. There is nothing unsophisticated about their campaign. They hired a marketing company to create a website - www. campaignforlittlebritain.com - brought Virgin Atlantic on board as a co-sponsor and staged a press event with flight attendants and the English soul singer, Joss Stone.
March 7, 2007
americone_dream_pint.jpg

images-1.jpgBen & Jerry have named a new flavor, Stephen Colbert’s AmeriCone Dream™. The concoction is "a decadent melting pot of vanilla ice cream with fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and a caramel swirl. It’s the sweet taste of liberty in your mouth."
January 25, 2007
canada.gifBack in the news (see our previous blog entry). As per the Minister's Office of Canada, effective immediately, the words “Canada's New Government” are to be used instead of “the Government of Canada” in all departmental correspondence. **Please note that the initial letters of all three words are capitalized.
January 24, 2007 | Tate Linden
Instinctually I would call them "kind, smart, nice, attractive, brave, generous..." and any other praising word I could think of.

That doesn't work in politics, though. In politics people who give lots of money want to be recognized as a member of a money-giving group. This sort of throws a wrench in the whole throw a bunch of sincere compliments at 'em strategy of mine, since lord knows I can't recite any string of praiseworthy qualities other than the Boy Scout Law - and that I often get mixed up, too.

tex_1368.gifGeorge Bush's fundraising team used the term Ranger to signify those that bring in at least $200K, and Pioneer was chosen as the name for $100K supporters.

A few weeks back Giuliani's campaign strategy book was leaked to the press, and in it the titles for contributors were listed. These were:nyy_1256.gif
  • $1 million - Team Captains
  • $200K - MVPs
  • $100K - All Stars
  • $50K - Sluggers
  • $2K - Benchwarmer
Okay... so the last one isn't real. Oddly, campaigns don't have names for people who just give their personal maximum.

With Giuliani's widely known affinity for the Yankees this classification system seems appropriate - even if it doesnt really link in with national pride the way the Bush program did. People in the Giuliani system will know they are appreciated by the man himself, since the classifications are in his native tongue.

Terry McAuliffe was on The Daily Show last night and was asked by Jon Stewart what Hillary Clinton was going to call her major donors. His ad-lib response was "Hil-raisers" - a term that Stewart derided wholeheartedly. Gotta agree there - "Hil-raisers" is horrible.

McAuliffe's second response - "Mavericks" seems at least a little better. One could imagine Hillary actually usingdal_435.gif the word and referring to her supporters as being mavericks. And then there's the tie in with sports again... Rangers (as in Texas) and Mavericks (as in Dallas.) I'm sure it is accidental, but it's a nice way of moving in on Republican territory.

I think the problem with Mavericks is that the other categories will be difficult to make appealing. What would you use? Stallions? Mares? Additionally, the term Maverick is derived from Samuel A. Maverick - a man that let his livestock run wild and unbranded. Sort of strange to brand one's followers as a group of unbranded people... Shades of the Generation-X folks that all wore flannel shirts to show how different they were. (I still have one in my closet. A shirt, not a Gen-Xer.)

ne_897.gifMy advice: Ditch mavericks. Go for something that emphasizes Hillary's strong points. Is she really seen as a Maverick? I'm not sure that's the right angle. Why not latch onto the centrist identity and go after the patriotism concept? Hillary is not an outsider. She's lived a life of public service - so she should latch onto it. Who doesn't want to be labeled as a "Patriot?" There are are so many rich historical figures, battles, and other events that she can squeeze for source material...

I'm still not sure I've hit the target, though. Hillary could use a good personal branding session. The outputs from that endeavor would serve as great source material for the fundraising strata.

Anyone have any serious (or perhaps not so serious) suggestions for classifications?

(And if Hillary's staff is reading this... Operators are standing by.)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 15, 2006 | Tate Linden

Indira Gandhi discovered a promising young talent around 1969 and nominated her as a member of the Indian delegation to the UN Commission on the status of women. This woman spun this nomination into a seat in Parliament in the 80s, and then as Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and PMO. She followed this up with the presidency of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee and just became the first Chief Minister to get a second successive term to rule Delhi.

Her name?

I'll get to that...

First names are tricky. Last names are even moreso.

What would happen if your last name held a proud history in your own country but translated very nearly into a profane reference in other cultures? As this powerful woman has progressed in her career there must have been temptation to step onto the global stage. With all of her achievements she seemed ripe for the move.

But she didn't. Perhaps it was that she was more interested in helping her own country and culture.

Or perhaps it was because the English speaking world is not ready for someone with the name "Dikshit" to hold a prominent role in affairs of State.

From what I can tell, Sheila Dikshit is a great woman. But I can also confirm that English speakers have a very difficult time with her last name. Just check this thread that brings up the name, or this site that can't help but bring up many, many references to the name in popular culture. Or even Dikshit.com whose tagline is (no joke) "Feel The Difference."

English speakers have to feel at least a little bit naughty when saying the name.

In the name's defense, I've been told that it is pronounced "DIX-sit" but even so, we Americans can't pronounce "Ask" and "Nuclear" on most days - so how well do you think we're going to do with this name?

I'm sure there's a lesson in this. I'm pretty sure it isn't "Check your personal name for translation issues before you go into politics." But it seems at least a little bit telling that a woman with such a strong following hasn't made the leap to the world stage.

I'll be watching with interest when her term is up to see if she goes for a third consecutive or tries to affect world politics. I'm guessing that she'll stay in Delhi, though I'll be pleasantly surprised if she takes on the translation issues and makes a grand re-entry into the UN.

Tate Linden
Principal Consultant
Stokefire Consulting Group
703-778-992

November 16, 2006
Auburn. Minnesota to vote on name for New Elementary School. Students and staff members will also get to vote on the new name. Since the start of the school year, students have been working to put this election together. Four finalists are being suggested.

Could UNCC get a new name? Members of the UNC Charlotte Student Senate debated last week whether to endorse changing the school's name to the University of Charlotte, but the discussion could be moot.

SBB Mutual is now CIMB Wealth Advisors. Re-branding exercise would also involve the setting up of a training and development centre for its agency force. Under the exercise, there would also be a re-branding of its 35 offices nationwide over the next few months.

Re-Branding Church: Queer Eye For The Big Guy. This week, Canada's largest Protestant church announced a $9.3 million image makeover that targets 30-45 year-olds with ads featuring suggestions of whipped cream sex and gay marriage. Though some may find it encouraging that The United Church of Canada is taking such an open stance on sexuality, it remains to be seen what kind of parishioners they'll attract with their bobble-head Jesus dolls or how many will stay when they discover there's actually no Jello wrestling in the pulpit.

Oxford professor Timothy Garton Ash longs for jihad. He puts forward what seems to amount to a simple re-branding of the war on terror, as if use of the term "war" itself begat the violent nature of the enterprise. Ash explains, "it wasn'ta good term to start with.
November 7, 2006 | Tate Linden
Over on Lee Hopkins' Better Communications Results blog there's an interesting post about the use of images on vehicles. I really enjoy Lee's blog and find the information that he provides to be though provoking and informative - especially if you are interested in learning about PR.

I too think that the pictures he has posted are quite cool. But there's a difference between a cool picture and a workable concept. A few problems appear with the advertisements:
  1. Every single picture on the page looks surprisingly similar. The trucks are all in the same position with the same background. These aren't photos of actual campaigns, they're mockups. (As evidenced by the final photo that shows the truck "speeding" in the parking lane or about to run off the road - depending on whether you're in a left-driving or right-driving country.) This doesn't mean it can't work - but it does imply that it isn't actually being used.
  2. An advantage of using mock-ups - the colors are vivid and clear - versus two-dimensional and covered with dust. The pics would likely be less convincing when scratched, tagged, and covered in dirt. It makes me wonder how the campaign would age and how expensive it would be to maintain.
  3. One advantage of using the same photo is that every shot is from the same angle - from behind, below, and to the left of the truck. Most of the images "pasted" on the wall of the truck don't work from any other position outside the truck than the position taken by the camera. So - if you're directly behind the truck you would see a picture that makes no geometric sense - the inside of the truck as seen from the left. It doesn't make visual sense.
On the plus side - if the trucks actually were rolling along the road they'd probably have other drivers competing for the exact right space for the perfect view. This could lead to blog mentions and press coverage. But even this has a negative. It could also lead to accidents as drivers jockey for their shots with their eyes on the camera instead of the road.

Even worse... the "sweet spot" for viewing in this instance is only a short distance behind the truck, meaning that people will sit in the danger zone appreciating the advertisement and making it hard for the truck to safely change lanes. The problem with this is that trucks typically can't tell when their rear bumper is clear of traffic. I don't know many truck drivers that would be interested in having people hanging out in the danger zone.

Okay, so I don't know many truck drivers at all. Any, really. But if I did and I asked 'em if they like people hanging out back there I bet they would say "no." (I do hang out in Truck Stops when I drive long distances - but I've yet to pick up any friends.)

I'm probably over-reacting here, but
October 26, 2006
Ottawa, Canada. Michael Ignatieff has indicated his willingness to recognize Quebec as a nation within Canada. Is a new name needed?.

DispenseSource® changes name to Nexiant. New name reflects strategic mission of company and growth from a small, five-person operation to a fast-moving, multi-million dollar business.

Local Iowan Millstream Brewing Company looks for new beer name for their best-selling beer.

Mbabane, Swaziland. Chicken Licken outlets close, to re-open, however, under a new trading and company name altogether. The closure came into effect after Chicken Licken-South Africa failed to supply them with some products such as the popular 'Hot Wings'. Owner of four franchises feels bad that there will no longer have Chicken Licken in the country.

Intercontinental Hotels Group Plc. is setting up a joint venture with Japan's All Nippon Airways Co. to manage hotel business in Japan. The venture, to be called IHG ANA Hotels Group Japan. TelePlus Enterpises, Inc. re-brands to TelePlus World, Corp. Change reflects companies focus on their operational objectives, which are to deliver wireless and telecom services to market niches in select markets in the United States, Canada and abroad.
October 24, 2006
Travelistic.com: The site’s tagline, "Video for Travelers", tries to eliminate any confusion between it and a travel agency site.

Wanna be the next Web Star? Win $50,000? Enter Yahoo's talent show named: "Save the Web from bad videos."

PepsiCo stays on course with current sales plan despite decline in soft drink sales in North America. New packaging graphics– not a drop in price points, will rotate every few weeks in addition to a new ad campaign with the tagline are "Feel the Pepsi".

"IF a rose would smell as sweet by any other name, will trial lawyers smell better with a new one?" Association of Trial Lawyers of America becomes after election day the American Association for Justice.

Globalization think tank re-thinks it's name to honor the former Nixon administration commerce secretary.

“Maybe she’s born with it…” this classic Maybelline tagline offers more truth than we realize.
October 20, 2006 | Tate Linden
I'm not really sure that it can work at this stage, but I sat with veteran Congressman Tom Davis for lunch today and he suggested that the Republicans could use some help in the brand department. He brought it up with humor, but underneath the joke ("can you fix the Republican brand in the next two weeks?") was a serious issue: The Republicans are hurting.

In Washinton State Darcy Burner is having great success with her campaign. One of the reasons is that she is able to link her competitor directly to the Bush White House.

Normally you'd think that this would be good news for her opponent, but with Bush not doing well in the polls for many reasons (international reputation, the war, the economy) being seen as a friend of the White House is doing no one any favors. Except
July 6, 2006 | Tate Linden

You must admire the power of a brand that gets invoked in the midst of a political debate.

Here's an exchange excerpted from the Sacramento Bee's coverage on yesterday's border debate on Capitol Hill.

U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray, a Republican representing Carlsbad in northern San Diego County, asked what Griffen and the Border Patrol were doing to protect his local Home Depot store from dozens of illegal immigrants harassing shoppers for work.

"Chief, in my neighborhood, the Home Depot is an 'illegal hub,' " said Bilbray, whose victory in a race for a House seat last month was fueled by voter anger over illegal immigration. "Is it too much to ask to have a few agents go to a place known to be frequented by illegal aliens?"

Bilbray was interrupted by Sherman.

"Our subcommittee focuses on terrorism," the Democratic congressman told him. "I don't think there are many terrorists at Home Depot."

May 1, 2006 | Tate Linden
I'm a bit puzzled over recent comments posted about Darcy Burner on Real Clear Politics. RCP's Tom Bevan, an apparently right-leaning commentator, wrote a position piece on Washington's 8th Congressional district race.

Bevan lays out Reichert's plan of action
April 20, 2006 | Tate Linden
A week ago I was lamenting the lack of any real branding effort for candidate Darcy Burner in Washington State's 8th Congressional district. Apparently I was premature. Ms. Burner and her team have turned a comment made by the Vice President (Dick Cheney) to her Opponent David Reichert into one of the biggest political PR wins in a good long while. (I'll get to why this relates to branding in a minute.)

Cheney jokingly offered to Reichert that he would be willing to campaign for Burner if it would help Reichert win. No harm no foul, right? Most opposing politicians would probably laugh it off or ignore the comment. But Burner didn't. She latched on to the statement and used it to great effect - and it has brought her campaign national attention in the blogosphere, and I'm betting it will boil over into the more established national media soon. Why? Because she took cheney up on his challenge. (Click the link to view the text of the letter.

This seems to be Darcy's first move into branding herself on a national stage and I think it went quite well. She got many of her main points across and did it in a way that can't be answered directly without political risk. It will be interesting to see if either Reichert or Cheney responds. Here's why I think this was genius: The Republicans invested a large amount of money to get Cheney out to Washington to support his team. They publicized the event, worked hard to make their candidate look good, and after all that time and effort… it turned into a PR vehicle for the Democrats. How does this relate to branding? Well, think about it – Here Reichert was essentially trying to show that he knows how to play the game by telling cute stories to get laughs, and he tells the one story that turns out to make him seem a little unintentionally oafish. He was branding himself (and the VP) as sly and humorous and ended up branding himself as politically naïve. His ‘off-the-cuff’ remark was perhaps worse than saying he wanted to raise taxes. (“Off the cuff” is in quotes, since we know wasn’t off the cuff. NO ONE would ever slam one’s own party VP even as a joke without getting permission first. To do it with permission is funny; to do it without permission is political suicide – especially when the VP just spent a whole lot of time and money to come out for an endorsement trip.) How else can the Democrats tell it is a win? Well, no Republican has commented on it, for one. Both parties know that the first thing you do when someone does something that makes your party look bad is… nothing. You gotta wait and see if it blows over. If the Republicans are lucky it won’t get picked up in the papers. What can Reichert do to preserve his brand? The traditional misdirection play would probably be the easiest. I would not be surprised if we saw him back a Bill, put out PR about fund raising levels, or make a statement about our dire need for more security in our seaports and airports. For someone so connected to the anti-terrorism movement it is probably difficult to keep the hand off the switch that can raise the threat level... okay, this probably doesn't warrant that much action, but stranger things have happened.

If he wanted to play Burner’s game he could actually respond on behalf of the VP (again, with permission – since he likely got the Veep into this in the first place) letting Burner know that the VP’s calendar is suddenly quite full until after the election, but he'd be happy to go on the tour with her after she has more free time. It’d be a minor recovery and would show that he has responded in kind...

Best case for Burner is that Reichert gets fighting mad about this. I truly doubt it will happen, but it would bring national attention to this little race. Burner likely has the local press in her favor, and I’m betting that the local bloggers are going to be pestering their buddies with press cards to ask Reichert what he thinks about the letter, or about the prospect of the VP coming to visit on behalf of Burner. If anything can peeve a candidate or politico it is a press corps that won’t drop a meaningless issue. And yes, this is – however entertaining – really a meaningless issue. It’s an incredibly effective one, one that establishes Burner as a force to be reckoned with as a political player and strategist on a local level, and one that will probably have Reichert scrubbing his speeches to ensure Burner doesn’t win more easy points – but the subject isn’t important. Here’s what is. The voters got to know Burner through the letter. She’s got moxie, spunk, or whatever you want to call it. So, even though the issues she is talking about may not win her many votes (they’re polarizing issues), the manner in which she got those issues out in the open very well might. Burner just sent up a fireworks display that may well have gotten some “ooohs” and “ahhhs” from fence-sitters in the district. That’s just about perfect for this point in the campaign. Now she can get back to the core values of her brand (deeper than moxie) to try to get ‘em to stay for the picnic when she takes office. This one gets two thumbs up. (And will likely lead to another missive from me on how to recover from something like this after we see what Reichert does…)
April 14, 2006 | Tate Linden
“Flip-flopper.”



Everyone knows what that means and who wears the label. It’s a strong brand invented by an opposing campaign and worn unhappily by John Kerry. Why did it stick? Because it was easier to quickly understand that the lengthy discussions that justified Kerry’s actions. Which do you want to hear – the two second sound-bite or the two-minute well-reasoned response? Kerry was too smart for his own good. “Flip-flopper” turned out to be a compelling brand that connected with the intended audience even though the guy that was stuck with the brand didn’t want it in the first place.

I’ve often said that if you don’t enforce your own brand then someone else will invent one for you – and this is an excellent example...

Well, there’s another candidate in a small race in Washington State’s 8th Congressional district who is beginning to be painted with the branding brush by her opposition. Darcy Burner is taking on first termer David Reichert for a seat in Congress. Mr. Reichert’s supporters have jumped on a few issues, calling into question the integrity of Ms. Burner.

Why am I interested? First, because I know Ms. Burner quite well (she isn’t technically family, but I consider her as such) and know most of the claims to either be untrue or so vague as to be irrelevant. (I say the following in the interest of full disclosure. We’re not related by blood, but we’ve got strong ties through adoptions, in-laws, and a few other twists and turns. The exact details are available if anyone wants to listen.)

Second, this appears to be an excellent case of opposition branding, and it gives me a chance to point out some of the strengths and weaknesses of a grass-roots (or even campaign sponsored) effort along those lines.

Here are the attacks I’ve seen (as best I can summarize them - you can find more here, here, and here):
  1. Ms. Burner inflated her title to “Microsoft executive” when she was in fact a manager of some type. Tell the Truth.
  2. Why won’t Ms. Burner come clean about why she left law school? Did she flunk out? Tell the truth!
  3. Ms. Burner is inexperienced and trying to cover it up! Tell the truth!!
  4. Ms. Burner hasn’t voted in every local election so why should we believe she’ll be active in representing us in Congress? Tell the truth!!!
I’m sure there are many more statements being made, but these are the ones that are making their way around the blogosphere most aggressively in the last few days. I must admit that the theme being used (Ms. Burner isn’t telling the truth, or is hiding something) is quite clever (even if a bit cliché for political campaigns.) She can’t refute it without appearing to be hiding something. You can never prove that you are completely honest, so by perpetually accusing someone of dishonesty you can keep them on the defensive forever.

Unfortunately for her detractors, Ms. Burner seems to have right on her side. I spent a few hours digging around to see what I could find on the claims, and this is what I unearthed.
  1. The “Microsoft executive” angle. This one seems to be getting the biggest press right now. The argument is that Ms. Burner intentionally stretched the truth of her responsibilities at Microsoft by calling herself an executive. Many came to her defense by pointing out that every dictionary they could find defines an executive as something like “A person or group having administrative or managerial authority in an organization.” That should be the end of the story, since Burner was a Program Manager – and thus had the qualifying managerial authority the definition requires. So, the follow-up argument has been that when people actually employed by Microsoft are asked if Program Managers are executives many have answered negatively (thus proving that contextually she’s stretching the truth, even if factually she isn’t.)

    That’s fine, but in press releases and articles from Microsoft and about Microsoft, positions from Business Development Manager to CEO were referred to as executives. If Microsoft’s PR department calls someone of similar rank (a non “lead” manager) an executive I would think that the title would apply to Burner as well. This should be the end of it, but it isn’t – and here’s why being right often doesn’t matter. Attacking is far easier than defending – even when the attacking claim is wrong. This is why candidates and companies must establish their own brand before someone else does it for them negatively.The attacks on this issue now approximately are summarized as “even if Microsoft and the dictionary both essentially state that Burner is right, we all know that only the top people in the company are really executives, and everyone else is just a manager, a director, or a VP. It's all about common use, not technical correctness. Let me put this one to bed (until the attackers change their angle.) In looking through the first 50 hits on Google for the words “Microsoft” and “Executive” there were multiple examples of non-senior Microsoft employees being identified as … Microsoft executives. Here’s the kicker – when an article wanted to make it clear that a really high-level executive was involved they used one of three basic identifiers: “senior executive,” “top executive,” or “chief executive.” There were even cases where lowly directors were labeled as top executives, which in my own eyes seems to really be somewhere on the slippery slope to puffery. Using just the tag ‘executive’ is not. Microsoft even hires for “non-executive” executives on their own website, and refers to upper management as “senior executives” on their website. So – tell me again why this isn’t a dead issue? Oh yeah… “Tell the truth” is easier to remember than “Even by Microsoft’s own hiring practices, PR group, dictionary definitions, and common usage, calling myself an “executive” is correct.”

  2. Unfortunately for Ms. Burner, questions about why one leaves school can only be answered in two ways. Either she opens up her report card or she ignores or deflects the issue. The problem with opening the report card is that it is again the start of a slippery slope. If the report card can be called into question, then everything that she’s ever done on the record can be brought forward and the onus is on her to deliver it. Why did she move to the West coast? Is there a documented answer? Why is she really running for Congress – is there something conflicting in her public statements? It becomes a witch hunt (which isn’t surprising in a political race, I know…) that she can’t win because even if the opposition can’t find anything they can always say she’s just too good at hiding it. My take – Burner should be as open as possible without detracting from her own messages. Let ‘em ask the hard questions and she can provide the hard answers. Let ‘em keep asking until they’re done. Being honest with one’s constituency should be at the core of any solid political brand. How can you get reelected if your base doesn’t know when you’re telling the truth?
  3. When it comes to experience, I find it intriguing that a first-term candidate would have anyone on their side of the fence shouting messages about inexperience at the opponent. Sure, one term is experience, but if Burner wins she’ll have just as much at the end of her term. Her Harvard credentials probably mean she’s a fast learner too. An alternate attack has also been tried – Reichert’s “decades of public service” capped by the arrest (and widely publicized prosecution) of one bad dude. Yep – the constituency knows of this and will be reminded repeatedly by what is actually a very astute team of marketers on Reichert’s staff. Unfortunately for Mr. Reichert, Ms. Burner is a likely better representative of, by, and for the people she will be representing than he is. Why? She understands what it is like to be a Microsoftie, is familiar with military family concerns, and in about a dozen other ways can relate to her constituency in ways Reichert can’t. Sure, Reichert has a big arrest and has served his time as a public servant, but he’s not taking the time to connect on anything other than family values and national security. To solidify his brand he should be connecting with something that resonates more with his constituency – and probably should be spending more time at home. Regardless of how little threat he thinks Burner represents, the idea that he’s not home protecting his turf or listening to his constituents (now or in the past) opens up some big soft targets for Burner.
  4. The public record of voting in the community is an interesting attack. (I do not have any first-hand knowledge of when either candidate voted, but you can find claims here. I consider myself to be involved in politics and a frequent/regular voter, but I know I’ve missed a few elections along the line. My reasons are my own, and I would assume that Burner’s are her own as well. I know there are all sorts of messages on the airwaves about how voting is a responsibility, but realistically in our system voting isn’t a responsibility at all. Voting is a right and anyone can choose to vote or not vote as they see fit. If voting were a responsibility then most of the country would be thrown in prison during every mid-term election. Heck, if I remember my history right, when fewer voters turn out it results in elections skewing to the Republicans. Why complain about one less Democratic vote. Were I in Reichert’s (or the conservative’s) shoes I’d be playing this exactly opposite. Why not laud the competition for handing a victory to the Republicans? (I’m sure there’s a close election that she didn’t vote in that went to the Repubs, and this would be a more compelling message than pointing fingers and saying “shame shame!!” It would be a far more sophisticated attack with a much simpler and compelling message.
Personally I’d rather work on the Burner campaign, because I see it as more connected to the community. Reichert needs to play defense by playing offense, and that means finding ways to stop meaningful dialogue before any points can be scored by Burner. Reichert’s brand is established (Family Values and Security) but very shallow. Burner’s is more of a challenge, because she’s less slick and produced. She needs to find a way to deepen her connection to her constituency as “of the people” – and find issues that a disconnected leader (such as she could brand Reichert) can’t easily respond to. Examples include addressing issues of concern to Microsofties, mothers, families with adopted children (or that have given up adoptees), and people that are a bit fed up with the ultra-security focus that is being shoved down our throats. (I mean, really… when was the last time you remember when our threat level wasn’t “elevated”? At some point shouldn’t “elevated” become “normal” so that we can make it meaningful? If the threat level never changes then why have it in the first place…)

There appear to be a plethora of branding issues and opportunities for both candidates, though currently Burner isn’t taking advantage of opportunities to set the perception of her opposition. Reichert and his supporters are doing just that, and until Burner can come up with a way to get the spotlight off of her (and defense) an onto either real issues or her opponent I fear that she’s going to be playing at a disadvantage.

That’s it for today.



Final disclosure - I’m not working for either campaign, and no one involved in either campaign knows that I’m posting this.