Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Two major marketing IMC events in 2008

Preview of JIMC (Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications publisher’s essay for Fall 2008
As this Journal goes to press, this is a spectacular year for anyone with an ounce or metric measure of interest in communications. It is in this year that I I have pointed my students, colleagues and audiences in the direction of two significant global events. Each event was widely open to both professionals, diverse and general audiences. Each event was also free; only requiring the commitment of time and some intellectual energy to watch and learn.

The first event that caught my personal and professional attention was the U.S. Presidential election campaign for 2008. Naturally, it started many months before but, as a fan and an academic author on political communications, I welcome the political season.

This year, I heard questions from the press regarding the early horserace; in the most contested party primary in recent history. With a presentation slide entitled “We call them Hillary, Barack, Fred, Mitt, John 1 and John 2, etc. (if you are searching for last names you can feel the pain of the candidates who did not establish their identities). From a more contemporary IMC point of view, the election offered some of the most interesting signs of a constantly evolving form of IMC and communications.

Political campaigns have long represented the most strategic use of every communication tool available. This year’s election added some new ways to link with audiences With a more intensive use of the internet, to not only raise funds (2004) or build an information site (2000) but, in 2008, to connect directly with voter and other highly relevant “communities.”

Politically-oriented, and IMC educated graduate student, Jesse Greenberg and I found that the Obama campaign built one of the earliest and most voter-oriented sites. The Obama Web site included twice as many links as Hillary’s did to other on-line communities. These communities were based on race, sexual preference, religion, age and other unifying concerns about which people gather to have conversations, including those about politics. The links between sites, in a Facebook fashion, created a new sense of community, and implied a form of mutual endorsement. Even John McCain “got it” when, post primary, he re-launched his website with a spectacular demonstration of reaching out to more than the proverbial “base.”

Greenberg and I argue that the opportunity for access to the candidates, via the tools of Web 2.0, enables a more open and progressive form of political access. This access offers voters a greater connection to the candidates’ ideas and actions. In our minds, the leverage of Web 2.0 technologies marks a new contribution the democratic process. This is an important departure from the historical form of access , which had only been available to the wealthiest and most generous donors. You know the rest of the story.

The second event still lingers in your short-term memory: The 2008 Olympics held in China. China has become one of my favorite countries. Over the past five years I have travelled frequently (enough so that I don’t have to pay the airlines’ profit center mistake of extra bag charges when I fly) to teach at a half dozen Chinese MBA programs including Sun Yat-sen, Jinan, Xiamen, Nanjing, Hunan, and Hangzhou Universities. I have rooted for the American Olympic heroes (what else could you call these dedicated men and women, who employ greater discipline than any of us?). Based on a series of talks in China that my colleague Bobby Calder and my friend, the former Governor of Wisconsin, Scott McCallum, I was already telling my audiences to watch the Olympics. Our work at Northwestern allowed us to teach a lesson for business to use IMC in extraordinary ways including building and protecting product, corporate and national brands.
The Olympics demonstrate the dedication of individuals, corporations and nations to the serious and valued marketing of the Games. Again, every possible tactic in marketing was employed; with most incorporating an integrated strategy to fully gain audience, stakeholder and customer allegiance. What a great show of fully-developed branding.

Despite my affinity to the brand and people of China, I did not realize that I would find myself carrying the Olympic Torch in Lijiang China, “One World, One Dream.” In June I brought home the Torch to Northwestern (don’t worry; it is the flame that we pass along). And with the flame, I brought to my family, students, colleagues and audiences another example of the brilliance of the human mind to create and perpetuate brand symbols of ideas, people and products that can even last centuries. Long live free elections, the Olympics and IMC!

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