Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Art of Spin, Media Doctoring and Marketing

The Economist, May 22nd, 2008, lists a very interesting book review on page 95 of the print edition, which I subscribe at my house but this is also available online on their website, without my login access, which means it is free from copyright regulations.

You can read the article Marketing Maestros. It tells of a very interesting story of Ned Kennan and I'll quote directly from the article so that I don't take away the fun and the zing of reading it-->

IN 1978 the mayor of Boston, Kevin White, was told some uncomfortable truths. The people of Boston did not like him. “They view you as an aloof, arrogant, son-of-a-bitch bastard,” said Ned Kennan, a pollster brought in to help Mr White win re-election. Mr Kennan had been using a tool that was still new in the late 1970s—the focus group. Instead of asking superficial questions of many people, he asked detailed questions of a few. The more he learnt about the nuances of their feelings for his client, the mayor, he figured, the better the odds of persuading Bostonians to vote for him.

Mr Kennan learnt his trade hawking Listerine mouthwash. The company's own polling revealed only obvious facts, such as that people gargled after eating garlic and onions or smoking cigarettes. Mr Kennan's focus groups told him more. He discovered that mouthwash users were play-by-the-rules types who followed the instructions on a product's label. The Listerine label told them to pour the mouthwash into the bottle cap before gargling. Mr Kennan suggested that sales would be boosted if the company made the bottle cap 25% bigger.

Using the same kind of research, Mr Kennan and his colleagues, David Sawyer and Scott Miller, quickly found a way to market Mayor White. They realised they could not stop people from thinking he was an arrogant bully. So they tried to persuade them that this was how he got things done. “Knowing which arms to twist and hands to hold: that's what it takes to be mayor,” went one slogan. In 1979, having trailed by 26 points in the polls, Mr White was re-elected.

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