Thursday, October 4

Stealing the Show at The Debates

Last night was the first Presidential Debate for this election period, and although I'm not a huge fan of these things, I do like to view them from afar.  While these debates don't help me sort through the issues at all (for me it all mushes together), they do cast a bright light on the candidates' brands.

Just look at how it all opened up ... Obama saying Happy Anniversary to his (now famous and beloved) wife and then Romney making a witty joke about it.  Both candidates trying to firmly establish their brands right from the start.  And then Romney came out fighting.

The rest of the night was really just about both sides jockeying for position, trying to make sure that their brand stayed intact.  For me, no one stood out ... and it certainly didn't help me to understand either brand better than before.  But that's just me.

But of course I'm more into the marketing, and there was a tiny little event that happened on Twitter that stole the show.  From brand KitchenAid of all places.

Now we should know by now that we have to be careful on Twitter ... many a brand has gotten itself in trouble from a random tweet.  Remember the note about Detroit drivers awhile back?

Midway through the night a tweet from KitchenAid landed that basically slammed Obama, noting that even his Grandmother thought it was bad and died a few days before he got in office.  Ouch.  Wow.  Ouch.

Interesting that a brand would have a point of view like this, as we've discussed quite a bit as it relates to Chick-fil-A.  Of course I doubt that it actually came from the brand itself, probably whomever was actually doing the tweeting.  Clearly that person has a point of view, but does that match that of the brand?  I have to give props to KitchenAid, though, for handling it swiftly and openly ... they've been paying attention!

It's a good lesson, once again.  Not only did we learn a little bit about branding (or the lack of differentiating them), but also a bit about brand behavior (or the lack of matching to brand equity).

Either way, yet again an example of "marketing is a spectator sport!"

What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
Author, The Experience Effect series
Professor, NYU


  1. It's a bit odd for this Tweet to come from a company like KitchenAid. A company that (to my knowledge) had no political or religious stance that is highlighted in the brand or, until now, mainstream media. It almost seems as though this comment came from a disgruntled employee hacking the account. The compared company (Chick-Fil-A), however, is a brand built upon a high regard for Christian values. For example the chain is closed on Sundays for religious observance. So while the comments and actions of CFA had a large backlash it is difficult to argue that they went against the brand image and did not come as a surprise to many.

    On the topic of Twitter one thing I noticed during the debate last night was the reaction to Romney cutting PBS funding but still "loves big bird". Big Bird was trending during the remainder of the debate and after it ended. A twitter handle @FiredBigBird was created and as of last night had 200,000 followers. The real big bird (so to speak) also took to twitter this morning with what I would boldly say is a perfect response to the incident. " My bed time is usually 7:45, but I was really tired yesterday & fell asleep at 7! Did I miss anything last night?" (@sesamestreet)

    ~Bianca S.

  2. On Kitchen Aid, I think it speaks - as you point out - to making sure the people that blog for you understand the brand voice. If it doesn't represent the brand, that was a really unfortunate mistake, because there are a lot of folks that don't go to Chick-Fil-A and won't buy from Kitchen Aid if they think there's a chance they are helping to support these kind of views.

    From a branding perspective, Big Bird and PBS are really a part of our culture. I think Romney made a mistake talking about cutting PBS, because that's got the same kind of feeling as taking away the American flag (not quite, but you get the point). It's our culture. It's been a part of millions of kids lives growing up.

    I know everyone says Romney did better. I think his biggest point was he was more specific than he has ever been before. At the same time, there was a lot of talk about his rudeness and pushiness. How will his brand be perceived with that over time? Bold and commanding or pushy and rude? Time will tell, don't you think?

  3. From a crisis-management perspective, I think KitchenAid deserves kudos for getting out in front of this so quickly (I feel for their brand manager!) Addressing this immediately, taking responsibility, apologizing in the middle of the night. These things unfortunately can happen but I was impressed with the speed of the response.

  4. The brand certainly handled it well, and by doing so people realized that it wasn't really a part of their views. Brand experience remains in tact! Jim.