Friday, August 20, 2004

Birth of a Meme

George Bush owes the American people an answer.

That's what John Kerry had to say yesterday to the International Association of Fire Fighters in Boston.
The situation in Iraq is a mess. That is the President’s responsibility and he owes the American people an answer.

America is on track to lose more jobs than it’s gained under George Bush and he supports a tax code that rewards companies for shipping jobs overseas. He owes the American people an answer.

Health care costs have exploded out of control. The President has done nothing and he owes the American people an answer.

The middle class is paying a bigger share of America’s tax burden. The President needs to answer to the American people why that is fair.
This is a new meme on the campaign trail and an exciting one.

American political campaigns seem to fail to understand (or ignore at their peril) the importance of the Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Successful marketers know that your USP distinguishes your product (candidate) from your competition (opposition), and a strong USP is an incredibly potent sales and marketing (persuasion) tool.

"The Real Deal?" -- tells us nothing about Kerry and could be used just as easily by Bush. Oh, and it sounds like he's selling hamburgers.

"Help is on the way?" -- good rah rah rhetoric for the convention (only someone please coach Kerry and Edwards on how to deliver the line in a way that cues the audience to chime in, their timing could use some real work), and a nice stump speech flourish, but NOT a USP, which means Bush could use this just as well.

"Turning the corner?" -- no USP, and clearly no one did their Popperian falsification homework on this one: the Kerry campaign has tidily turned the trope against Bush with press releases about how the Bush admin is "turning the corner to higher profits for Drug Companies". (I hope we will see more of this trope on the campaign trail as well.)

The Kerry campaign has truly hit a home run, with "Bush owes the American people an answer:"
  • The phrase has a strong USP that distinguishes Kerry from Bush.
  • It makes a negative attack on Bush based on his policy choices, not personal character.
  • It puts the Bush campaign on the defensive.
  • The viral potential of the meme is fabulous.
  • It offers an opportunity to subliminally counter-program the media.
  • And finally, it redefines the terms of the debate.

  • Oh, and coincidentally, it's true. George Bush does owe the American people a lot of answers.

    Many thanks to Andrea at Shameless Agitator for posting the quote.