The Selling of Health Care
Hence the term "Astroturfing" (phony grassroots actions).
President Obama's Hard Lesson in Marketing 101
All professional marketers—and especially direct marketers—have hardwired the following rule into our DNA:
Never roll out a national campaign without first testing it down to the gnat's eyebrow.
Because the president took his plan directly to the people sans testing, he's precipitated a PR catastrophe that's being played out in town meetings, media coverage, millions of dollars of competing broadcast and print advertising, and bombast by conservative commentators such as Glenn Beck ("Obama is a racist") and Rush Limbaugh ("Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, ruled by dictate").
What should the Obama White House have done?
- A series of quiet coast-to-coast focus groups not open to the media.
- Professional, noncommittal facilitators to work with individual groups—consumers (employees, seniors and uninsured), physicians, employers, insurers and politicians—to get a fix on what aspects of the plan they're in favor of, what they fear and what language they're comfortable with. With the information gained, a more acceptable plan could have been crafted.
- As well as hammering out solutions with the many constituencies whose oxen were about to be gored, these focus groups would have identified the toxic issues and hot-button phrases before they were loosed on the American people to totally pre-empt civilized debate. Far more precise and soothing language could have been incorporated into the plan.
- For example, the end-of-life counseling option turned seniors ballistic, generating a series of brilliant shibboleths, such as, "Obama wants to kill your grandma," and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's Facebook blog that nearly turned the health care debate into a train wreck:
The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
The Business Model
"The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife," wrote advertising legend David Ogilvy. "You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information we can give her."