Election Anticlimax / Sustaining the Tribe

To me, today has an anticlimactic feeling.

Sure, elections matter and this one is hugely important; of course, I voted in it and I’m rooting for the likely winner.  But I’m bothered by the extent to which this poll has been so extravagantly built into a single-service impulse purchase.  The billion-dollar question, as it’s been posed to the public by candidates and journalists and marketers alike, essentially ends in the voting booth.  But of course, all of the narratives on which it’s been built — from clean technology to healthcare to character stories — don’t stop when the polls close.  What will happen to their energized followers tomorrow morning?

Seth Godin, as usual, offers some quoteworthy election-related marketing insights today, one of which deals with the ‘tribes’ of followers that each candidate labored to construct (‘tribal’ marketing is incidentally the topic of Godin’s new book).  Barack built a new tribe and succeeded, McCain shot for too many tribes and failed.  The unshocking conclusion:

This is a real question for every marketer with an idea to sell. Do you find an existing tribe … and try to co-opt them? Or do you try the more expensive and risky effort of building a brand new tribe? The good news is that if you succeed, you get a lot for your efforts. The bad news is that you’re likely to fail.

The real questions, I think, are not so obvious.  How do you keep a tribe engaged in an idea beyond an event?  How do you preserve an alliance of mulitple tribes simultaneously when you face limited resources?  Is there a predictable shelf life on tribal leadership, and if so what factors go into that prediction?

This election is historic, but not just because of race and gender and money and coverage and turnout.  It will truly be a turning point if it can alter the nature of democratic participation beyond November 4th.  And that victory is far from a solid bet.

© Ryan Cunningham 2008

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thoughts at the collision of business, brand and creativity

I'm Ryan Cunningham. I help companies and culture play nice with each other. At CREATURE we call this Brand Strategy, a term that carries a nice halo of reliability and structure. Here, I'm just another guy who thinks about the world and writes it down from time to time.

The result is a pile of knowledge to be used in, and for, the future. Feel free to sift through the heap for useful connections.

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