The Complete “What is an A6 or A11 or V6 or V21, etc. decision style?” Arc (Originally “Do McCain, Biden, Palin and Obama Think the Way We Do? (Part…)”

Note: this content was originally a four part arc.

Do McCain, Biden, Palin and Obama Think the Way We Do? (Part 1)

I suspect this post is going to cover a lot of ground.

It’s going to start with a response to reader Dwight Homer’s question “What is an A6 or A11 or V6 or V21, etc. decision style?” in his Did Americans Always Think This Way? (Responding to WindKiller’s comment on “What McCain said about Obama and Palin to Hillary and Biden”) comment [[(Alas, the post remains but the comment is gone)]]. From there we’re going to analyze some interviews and the debates to get an idea of how the candidates think. This is a follow up to something Tex and WindKiller have been asking about and hinting at in their comments on “Hillary is piloting the space shuttle and Sarah Palin is riding a bicycle” and Designing a Political Language Engine (WindKiller’s PWB comment) and What’s Happening Up North? respectively [[(As before, the posts remain and the comments are no more. From this we learn that nothing lasts forever, what could be found one day is lost on another, and what is remembered depends on what bills are paid…)]].

First, Thanks to all of you for reading and commenting.

Second, and starting with Mr. Homer’s question…

A6, A11 and so on are classifications NextStage uses to designate decision, learning, cognition, etc., styles. They are shorthand notation for some very long and very detailed explanations of what triggers different reactions and responses in different individuals and groups of individuals and why these individuals and groups act and will act. Very briefly, these classifications are shorthand notations for

  • how people think,
  • how they behave,
  • how they demonstrate that behavior and
  • what motivates their behavior.

For example, the A6 definition includes:

  1. are more emotive than most

  2. become emotional during conversations
  3. are more apt to make decisions when there’s some emotional values involved
  4. are more apt to learn something when the lesson appeals to the emotions
  5. tend to focus on what’s in front of them work-wise
  6. tend to live “in the day”
  7. base decisions on positive influences
  8. are good listeners
  9. don’t rely on future rewards much if at all
  10. tend to ignore past successes and failures
  11. make a final decision based on whether or not they can see an immediate advantage to the decision
  12. are swayed when allowed to take part in activities
  13. tend to have a positive outlook on life

An A11 definition includes:

  1. base their decisions on whether or not their recent past contained any negative aspects

  2. learn most readily when the lesson references a recent past, negative event
  3. often experience negative memories which are triggered by some sound (a voice, a word or phrase, music, etc)

  4. often experience visual memories which bring up painful past experiences
  5. tend to be loners or dissociative with others
  6. willingly avoid social situations
  7. base decisions on avoiding pain or discomfort

  8. learn most rapidly when the lesson has a threat (real or imagined) of pain or discomfort
  9. are strongly influenced by references to past failures and associated uncomfortable memories
  10. rarely make references to past, present or future successes

  11. are not influenced by references to past, present or future successes
  12. ignore making decisions or engaging in activities which are guided towards present and future pleasures/successes

  13. ignore advice and/or counsel which directs their attention to present or future pleasure/successes

These notation bear their legacy as most of them are named after different brain regions.

Before the break I mentioned that these classifications are shorthand notations for

  • how people think (Cognitive),
  • how they behave (Behavioral),
  • how they demonstrate that behavior (/effective)and
  • what motivates their behavior (Motivational).

A further shorthand notation for these is {C,B/e,M} matrix or {Cognitive, Behavioral/effective, Motivational} matrix (there are some links to richer explanations at the end of this post).

Sometimes similar themes appear in different notations. Let me offer that it’s not that they show up, it’s where they show up. The order in which a item appears is an indication of how great a role that item plays in that individual or group’s learning, decision making, memorization, etc., style.

What goes into a NextStage {C,B/e,M} matrix is both a summation and synthesis of information that’s been in the literature (linguistic, psychology, sociology, anthropology, neuroscience, and lots of subdisciplines) for the past 20-150 years. I believe the term “{C,B/e,M} matrix” originated with NextStage although the much of the science behind it didn’t.

Adjusting the sieve

How many different ways do people think? That depends greatly on how fine a sieve you want in place when you answer (much of this is detailed in Reading Virtual Minds). You can correctly state that most native English speaking countries (with the exception of Australia) promote three different ways of thinking. Do you want to involve southern Europe excluding the eastern Mediterranean? Then you have four. Include northern Europe and you have between five and seven. Go to eastern Asia and you still have five to seven but they’re a completely different five to seven than in Europe as a whole.

What makes this a powerful (to us) concept is that we’ve learned certain types of individuals fit into certain groups extremely well. For example, what makes an individual a good researcher (ahem)? What makes someone an excellent business leader (say C level of a large business)? Are different qualities necessary to be an excellent business leader of a small business? Is one an A32 and another a B17?

Marketing and “Knowing How They Think”

Clients use our designations to better understand how to market to different individuals and groups. For example, people doing extreme sports tend to think in certain ways. These ways of thinking permeate everything in their life, not just extreme sports. Our experience is that most marketers don’t have the tools or background to make use of distinct {C,B/e,M} matrices in their creative, nor do most businesses know how to adjust their marketing material to more precisely target (ie, get a larger portion of a target) audience. To that end, standard lifts using our methodology are documented in our case studies.

You’re Marketing. It’s in Your Blood and Wired into Your Brain

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

I don’t know if anybody’s told you, but marketing appeared long before humans were humans. Ever seen a peacock’s beautiful plumage? That’s marketing. Ever heard a lion roar? That’s marketing. The great ape beating its chest is marketing and we’ve learned from our evolutionary ancestors well. Ever wonder why you’re attracted to some people and not others?

bmw car ad.jpg

Sometimes the marketing is obvious. The woman wearing a revealing clothing (whatever that means. It’s different in every culture) is marketing, the man with the sports car (this is becoming prevalent as western cultural values become more and more ubiquitous) is marketing.

Marketing and advertising is so a part of our neural makeup that we do it without thinking and — more to the point of this discussion — use it without thinking. I could offer that we’re now about to get into something akin to horoscopes (“You get along well with Libras and Virgos”. In truth, some companies use our technology on what I call “matchmaker” sites) except that it’s much more like mRNA and DNA signalling (because that’s what we based this part of Evolution TechnologyTM (ET) on). We demonstrated and published ET’s abiliity to find job candidates that would immediately fit in and perform well in an existing group via these principles at a Boston KM Forum meeting in Aug 06.

What I mean by the above is that someone who’s (for example) an O12 will get along incredibly well with some other Os, some Vs and a few As. Have you ever had the experience of just meeting someone and feeling like you’ve known them all your life? Or maybe you’ve heard someone talking or lecturing and what they said, the things they shared and the pictures they showed gave you the impression they were speaking directly to you at this moment in your life?

Congratulations, your {C,B/e,M} matrix was vibrating at just the right frequency to be in harmony with that other person’s or that speaker’s (and yes, the math behind some of this is based on …oh, let’s face it, I’ve probably already gone too deep for most folks reading this).

So Politicians Can Win Elections by…

The logical outcome of this is that anybody who vibrates at the right frequency or has the {C,B/e,M} mRNA that binds to the largest population will be most trusted, most favored, so on and so forth.

Recent politicians who did this best included Presidents Clinton and Reagan.

My next blog post will investigate the personal communication styles of the 2008 Presidential candidates based on their recent interviews and debates.

Do McCain, Biden, Palin and Obama Think the Way We Do? (Part 2)

I suggested previously that politicians win elections by “vibrating at the right frequency”, ie, having a {C,B/e,M} that is most easily accepted and identified with by the largest percentage of the voting population. The colloquial concept of “vibrating at the right frequency” is well known in marketing and advertising; the use of people in ads and creative that your target audience can identify with. IE, you probably won’t see too many spindly academic types in driving pick-ups in truck commercials. Much more simply; count the number of people wearing eyeglasses driving pick-ups in truck commercials versus the number of people wearing eyeglasses in commercials for upscale cars. Why the difference? Eyeglasses indicate intellectual, managerial and executive capabilities. That’s not the traditional pick-up truck market. Want to hear marketing types going nuts? Listen in on conversations about whether or not actors in SUV commercials should be wearing glasses (see What do kids think about kids in eyeglasses? for more on this).

What this dips into and one of the ways NextStage makes use of these {C,B/e,M} matrices is in our Rich PersonaeTM. Rich PersonaeTM take the personae most clients come up with and imbue them with very real, very “mindful” reasons and motivations for their thoughts and deeds. You can find some links to information on NextStage’s Rich PersonaeTM at the end of this post. The most germane for this post might be Romney, Mitt Romney, Governor Romney, Social, Social Networks, Social Media, Video, Multimedia, TV, Advertising.


Websites, etc., work very hard at vibrating at the desired audience’s frequency. The reason for this is that it creates a trust relationship very rapidly. Politicians want you to trust them, hence analyzing how a political website vibrates is a good indication of who they think their audience is.


Because if you’ve been following along with this series of posts, they websites aren’t doing a very good job of vibrating at the frequency of the largest audience. A strong case could be make that they’re not vibrating at the right frequency of some kind of glommed audience (see What McCain said about Obama and Palin to Hillary and Biden).

So I analyzed the debates

Thinking that the candidates would communicate differently in the debates, we analyzed the videos of the debates. What did we find?

Well, strangely enough (at least to me). Biden, McCain, Obama nor Palin were vibrating to the tune of the largest audience or even the largest audience glom.

In fact, I was shocked to learn that Biden, McCain, Obama, Palin, Lehrer and Ifill were all communicating with an A13 style. They were having a heck of a time being understood and understanding each other but what about the rest of us? I mean, during the exact time periods that the debates were going on, were the majority of people thinking and making decisions in an A13 style? At one point in time 14% of the BizMediaScience audience was A13 (see Do You Know How to Persuade, Influence and Convince Your Visitors? (NextStage Evolution’s Evolution Technology, Web Analytics, Behavioral Analytics and Marketing Analytics Reports for the BizMediaScience Blog) Again).

Right now (as I write this) the A13 personality comprises only 5.21% of BizMediaScience audience. I am reaching a more varied audience though. I was only reaching 12 personality types when I wrote Do You Know How to Persuade, Influence and Convince Your Visitors? (NextStage Evolution’s Evolution Technology, Web Analytics, Behavioral Analytics and Marketing Analytics Reports for the BizMediaScience Blog) Again, now I’m reaching 34!

So what is an A13 Personality?

  1. These people strongly prefer to be taught via negative reinforcement
  2. They make final decisions based on the immediate outcomes, they aren’t persuaded by appeals to long range goals
  3. They look to those emotionally close to them for guidance and leadership
  4. They base their decisions on the negative aspect of arguments

Well, wow. I especially like #2. To heck with long term and down-the-road consequences of our decisions, legislation, et cetera.

How much of the viewing public was vibrating at this frequency during the debates?

You’ll be shocked (at least I was mildly amused) to learn that the personality types prevalent during the first McCain-Obama debate on 25 Sept 08 were the same as in the graph above. However, things changed during the Biden-Palin debate on 2 Oct 08 as shown in the chart below.

What caused this shift in popular thought processes from 25 Sept to 2 Oct 08? This is more than a shift of a few points in the existing personality styles. Old styles are gone, new styles are taking their place, there were 7 and now there are 6. Hmm. The ranks are tightening, me thinks.

McCain-Obama, Biden-Palin US Decision Pattern Differences 080925-1002

The linking element of the decision/personality styles extant on 2 Oct 08 is simple; things are looking bad. Anyone want to take a guess why the nation as a whole would be thinking things aren’t looking too good at this point in time?

Do McCain, Biden, Palin and Obama Think the Way We Do? (Part 3)

Some quick notes before I get into the meat of this post:

This post will be covering

Here we go…

The Palin-Gibson Interviews

Charles Gibson was using an A13 communication style during the 11 Sept 08 interview. You may remember from the above that Biden, McCain, Obama, Palin, Lehrer and Ifill all used A13 methodologies during the debates so perhaps Charles Gibson’s use of A13 had more to do with experience and training than anything else (could it be that A13 is the best communication methodology for people reaching out to a television audience? Food for thought and research, that).

Governor Palin, about a month before the VP debates, was using a K13 communication style. This style’s key elements are:

  • These people prefer to experience things first-hand
  • They base decisions on immediate experience and tend to be negative in nature
  • They tend to ignore positive-based information as either unreal or unsubstantiated
  • They are attracted to and will focus on demonstrations of problems or difficulties

During the 12 Sept 08 interview Charles Gibson switched to an A9 style and Governor Palin went to an A5. The A9 style can be likened to a more conversational, more intimate form of the A13 style. A5 has

  • These people are strongly emotive and can become emotional during conversations
  • They are more apt to make decisions when they’re based on absolutes (right/wrong, good/bad)
  • They tend to have a negative outlook on life and dwell on past failures
  • They are very hands on

Thus in both interviews Governor Palin prefers to do things herself (the “first hand” and “hands on” aspects) although she didn’t demonstrate as strong a in the second interview as she did in the first, and she prefers to see the negatives rather than the positives (again with a slight shift in the second interview).

The “…make decisions when they’re based on absolutes (right/wrong, good/bad)” element is often found in individuals with definite religious beliefs.

The Palin-Couric Interviews

As goes Gibson so goes the Couric. Katy Couric’s communication style on 24 Sept 08 was A13. Unlike Charles Gibson, Ms. Couric stayed with an A13 style for the 25 Sept 08 interview.

Governor Palin’s communication styles for these two interviews was A13 followed by A5, thus Governor Palin once again in the second interview demonstrated a tendency towards absolutist views.

Gender Communications

One thing we learned in our studies of the 2004 election cycle (see NSE Case Study – Using NextStage’s TargetTrack in Political Campaigns, Predicting Election Outcomes Via NextStage’s TargetTrack and Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History Chapter 4 “Anecdotes of Learning: Politics Aren’t HorseRaces Any More”. We also offer our complete 2004, 2008 and 2012 Campaign Analyses for $25kUS each. Contact NextStage if you’re interested) was that communication styles — especially when they’re not capturing a large audience — are sometimes not as important as understandability, gender communications, education level and other demographic factors.

That recognized, Charles Gibson was reaching pretty much an even mix of males and females in the two interviews; 51/49 M/F on 11 Sept 08 and 53/47 M/F on 12 Sept 08. Likewise, Katy Couric reached 52/48 M/F on 24 Sept 08 and 48/52 M/F on 25 Sept 08. I would credit this to their training and experience as reporters and being on the anchor desk.

Governor Palin’s performances were 39/61, 42/58, 49/51 then back to 39/61 on the four days in question. Whatever was going on or being discussed on 11 and 25 Sept 08, Governor Palin intentionally or otherwise wanted to be sure women would take or be on her side.

Me, Politics, Adam Zand’s Really Big Shoe, How Obama’s and McCain’s sites have changed when we weren’t looking

Note: This section had a great deal of front matter dealing with Adam Zand interviewing J for a podcast on politics. We’re cutting that and going straight for the post’s jugular…

And now, How Obama’s and McCain’s sites have changes when we weren’t looking.

The sites, they are a’changin’

The last time I commented on the actual campaign websites was in Designing a Political Language Engine (WindKiller’s PWB comment) and What’s Happening Up North?. What’s happened since then?

Oh…just a little.

Here’s how Senators McCain’s and Obama’s website has changed their communication styles over time:

Date McCain Obama
(splash, main) where appropriate
10 Feb 07 V16 V15
6 Mar 07 K9 V15
22 Mar 07 V16 V15
24 Jun 07 V15 V12, K15
13 Aug 08 V16 K8, K1
25 Aug 08 V15 K8, K1
27 Aug 08 V16 V11, A8
29 Aug 08 (pre Palin announcement) V15 A7, V8
29 Aug 08 (post Palin announcement) V15 A7, V8
2 Sep 08 V15 V16, V8
3 Sep 08 V15 V16, A8
4 Sep 08 K16 K11, A16
10 Sep 08 K16 K11, K8
18 Sep 08 V16 K11, V8
23 Sep 08 V15 K15, K8
28 Oct 08 K15 V15, A8
30 Oct 08 V9 V15, A8

Forget what the Vs and As and Ks mean, just notice how often they’re changing. My guess is they’ll continue to change daily as the election gets closer. Senator McCain’s website’s relative communicative stability over the time period detailed is (I believe) a kind of equation that looks like

Candidate + Audience + Message = 1

What I mean by this is that for the longest time Candidate McCain pretty much gave one message to his audience. There were minor shifts and alterations, and pretty much it was one message. Now things are tighter and Candidate McCain is changing his message and his messaging as the days grow shorter and his campaign works to find the magic bullet that will stop the Obama machine.

Senator Obama’s website comes in two parts, splash and main with splash being variations of the join/learn page shown here [[(sorry, we don’t have a copy of that image)]]. The variations here show something that (I’ve heard) the Obama campaign does very well; respond rapidly to changes in its audience base.

Some readers might take that as “Obama changes his story as it suits him” and that’s not what I’m suggesting. How the message is delivered (the images, words, …) changes as their audience shifts. What the message is stays (I’m guessing) the same.

I will offer that if the site is an echo of the man, then Senator Obama has the ability to rapidly and easily change his approach to problem solving.

Again, I’m neither implying nor stating that Senator Obama changes his opinions on things (he may, I don’t know). I’m suggesting that if (IF!) his site is a product of his beliefs and methods then he has the ability to change how he solves problems when he recognizes that a present strategy isn’t working. The problem doesn’t change nor does the desire to solve it, only the methodology changes. This is what all that {C, B/e, M} stuff was about above and et al.

Links for this post:

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“Hillary is piloting the space shuttle and Sarah Palin is riding a bicycle”

I just returned from some research that took place in NH and NJ regarding women’s perception of Sarah Palin. My real curiosity was “would a woman who supported Senator Clinton support Governor Palin?”

The title to this post is one of the quotes from people I spoke with.

I have to say that the responses took me by surprise. The women I interviewed were both Republican and Democrat. Some had supported Senator Clinton, some had not, some had supported Senator McCain, some had not.

The consensus is very nicely stated in the title to this post. All the women (and I do mean “all”) felt that Governor Palin was not a good choice for Vice-President, not a good choice to lead the United States should something happen to Senator McCain if he’s elected. The belief is that she is a woman mired in the past without a good understanding of the average woman’s needs and wants.

One middle-aged republican woman said “If Sarah Palin was any more on the right she would have fallen off the edge. The responsible thing for Sarah Palin to do would have been to decline. Although McCain probably said ‘With you I can win the ticket’ so in her mind the responsible thing she did was to accept the nomination.”

I was also curious about when these women’s opinions shifted, especially the women who originally supported Senator Clinton. I was surprised to learn that several women shifted away from Senator Clinton prior to the primaries. One woman wearing an Obama pin said that both she and her sister originally supported Senator Clinton but had a feeling that if Clinton won she would become a little too dictatorish. “She got scary.”

I have to wonder, how does someone become “a little too” dictatorish?

I’ll be returning to the analysis of campaign websites as soon as I finish up some other things. I’ll also note that the entirety of the opinions of the women I met regarding Governor Palin are both summed up and demonstrated in the title to this post. Bonus points to those figuring it out.

Thanks for reading.

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(We think this is) The Complete “Did Americans Always Think This Way? (Responding to WindKiller’s comment on ‘What McCain said about Obama and Palin to Hillary and Biden’)” Arc

Note: This was originally two separate posts. We’ve combined them here because we’re tired)

Did Americans Always Think This Way? (Responding to WindKiller’s comment on “What McCain said about Obama and Palin to Hillary and Biden”)

WindKiller asked some excellent questions in his comment on What McCain said about Obama and Palin to Hillary and Biden [[(Alas, the post remains and the comment’s…history (ugh))]]. I’ll do my best to respond to them here.

One thing WindKiller wrote was “When you were analyzing the candidates’ web sites 4-5 years ago (primary and then presidential), I seem to recall seeing a fair number of V15’s, V9’s, K15’s and K9’s.”

There’s an implied and not stated question there; Have American thought processes changed over the past few years?

Yes, they have (and good catch and eyes, WindKiller. Thanks for keeping me on my toes). I was going to include this information in What McCain said about Obama and Palin to Hillary and Biden and didn’t know if it would be interesting enough to people not versed in the science. I’ll do my best to make it more accessible in the future.

That offered…

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This chart is the one shown in What McCain said about Obama and Palin to Hillary and Biden and shows the primary decision/communication styles for the US population a little over a year ago (3 July 07). The dominant style is V19 by just under three (3) percentage points. V19s have the following characteristics:

  • These people are extremely visually oriented
  • They tend to live in the past
  • They pay the most attention to references of past events, framed in the negative and presented in a visual format
  • They are influenced by being reminded of past problems
All US Decision Styles over 5% of population 2003 May 30

This chart is from 30 May 03. V19 is listed and it’s in third place. The dominant decision/communication style is V3 with A11 about one percentage point behind. The V3 communication style can be summed up as

  • These people base their decisions on what they see
  • They focus on past failures
  • They favor explanations of how to get out of present of future trouble
  • They are more often influenced by the examples of others rather than their own experience

A11s tend to

  • These people base their decisions on avoiding pain or discomfort
  • They are not influenced by references to past, present or future successes
  • They tend to be loners who willingly avoid social situations
  • They learn most rapidly if the lesson has a threat (real or imagined) of pain or discomfort

The big change between 2003 and 2007 (national personality wise) was that people in 2007 had a much greater sense of personal vulnerability than they did in 2003 and their escape mechanism from that sense of personal vulnerability was to remember “the good old days” (whatever that meant to them).

There are some things worth noting on these two charts alone. The dominant communication styles in 2003 were

Style %
A6 5.59
A11 6.69
A14 6.19
V3 7.70
V6 5.64
V19 6.51

In four years two decision styles — V21 and V22 — that together summed to only 5.64% of the 2003 audience entered prominence in 2007. Likewise, A6 and A14 fell off our radar, A6 by three points and A14 by just under two.

The take-away from this indicates a major shift in how the US population is making decisions. People in 2003 were listening to each other much more than they are now, despite all the hoopla about social media and such. Note that I wrote listening, not talking. People may be talking to each other a lot more now than they were in 2003 but they’re not listening to each other as much as they were then.

This concept — talking but not listening — actually hearkens back to another comment WindKiller posted in Barack Obama, John McCain, Politics, Presidential Election 2008 and Political Websites, part 2 [[(The comment’s gone, what remains of the post is available)]].

Another item worth noting is the A6 decision style; 5.59% in 2003 and 6.15% in 2007. That’s pretty steady considering population fluctuations and such. The big winner, of course, is V19 with a gain of about three points.

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

But the times, as they say, are a’changin’. Tuesday, 9 Sept 08, just over a week ago saw the loss of V3 and the gain of A10. The sum of this change over a year’s time is that people are now talking and listening to each other much more than they were before. People (in general) are still sensing a personal vulnerability but the close cropping of styles (10 and 11, 19, 21 and 22) indicate a large percentage of the population is still on the fence (more like “teetering on the edge”) regarding which way to vote.

Like A11 and unlike V19, V6 stays fairly steady through time. Styles that remain steady through time are usually indications of cultural and/or demographic based decision styles and are often demonstrated by a geographically stable population. Historically these are shown by large immigrant populations all settling in one geographic location. More modern times see these phenomena in socio-cultural economic groups (national or international unions, religious groups (not denominations. For example, not “Baptists” but “Evangelicals”), etc.). It would be a worthy study to follow the A11 and V6 because these styles are complementary. Going after one usually means going away from the other.

A consistent style — such as V19 — that varies over time tends to be a demonstration of a socially defined decision style, such as Boomer, GenY, GenX, WASP, DINK and so on.

Of course, this could also play into Republican and Democrat based decision processes.

Something for another post, me thinks.

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

Finally, what has changed in a little over a week? Pretty much the numbers remain as they should. You’ll see major shifts in short periods of time when widescale trauma occurs — much like the human body responding to injury, the more serious the injury the greater the change in the body’s response systems. “Trauma” can mean anything that shifts social consciousness on a grand scale and includes sports teams winning to the emotional strain of filing income taxes (as documented in Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History to national economic instability to devastating weather.

Summing up this post, I offer the following table for those keeping score.

Style May 03 % Jun 07 % 9 Sep 08 % 18 Sep 08 %
A6 5.59      
A10     5.26 5.37
A11 6.69 6.15 5.79 5.73
A14 6.19      
V3 7.70 5.89    
V6 5.64 5.15 6.47 6.41
V19 6.51 9.56 5.44 5.42
V21   5.32 5.84 5.89
V22   6.15 7.93 7.66

Designing a Political Language Engine (WindKiller’s PWB comment) and What’s Happening Up North?

Here I respond to the second part of WindKiller’s What McCain said about Obama and Palin to Hillary and Biden comment [[(Alas, the post remains and the comment’s…history (ugh))]], “If you were to device a PWB group (where P stands for Political), would these be their communication style? Is it possible (although unintentional) that these web sites are targeting other professional politicians? How would you change Obama’s web site to target that valuable V19 demographic from your pie chart?”

WindKiller is (I think) alluding to NextStage’s Language Engine technology, an aspect of our Evolution Technologytm that understands different languages and jargons. For example, when analyzing a site targeted to an Hispanic audience (even if the site is in English), ET needs to “think” in Spanish hence we have an Hispanic Language Engine. ET also understands lawyerese, investorese, researcherese, … . Here WindKiller is asking if we have a Political Language Engine and, if we do, are the campaign websites designed (intentionally or otherwise) to appeal to an audience that “thinks” like a politician.

Is there a universal “Political” Mindset?

The first question to me is to learn if all politicians think a certain way. I’m not going to analyze every campaign and PAC site on the planet and I will offer that there’s another great North American election coming up, in Canada. Let’s analyze the “campaign” sites of Harper and Dion. It’s a limited test and let’s see what we can find.

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

Listing alphabetically, we start with the Dion English site for 23 Sept 08. The main communication style of this page is V16. Key factors for the V16 communication style are:

  • These people need to have information presented to them in pictures, charts or graphs
  • They finalize their decisions by using internal dialog
  • They need information framed in a positive manner before they can accept it
  • They have no sense of time or process

The Dion French site for the same day is also V16.

I should point out that as recently as 2005 there was a very distinct difference between English and French websites in Canada even when they were for the same company in the same location. This difference was due to each version of the website being designed for how that language culture thought and internalized information. An emotional argument in English won’t use the same strategy to get its points across as an emotional argument in French and vice versa.

The similarity between English and French sites is more an indication of the “democratization” of the internet and how — in an attempt to reach everybody equally — it denies each person their uniqueness and individuality.

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

The Harper English and French sites also share a specific communication style, this time K10. Key factors for the K10 communication style are:

  • These people learn by doing and tend to be risk-takers
  • They tend to have a positive outlook on life
  • They can be convinced by demonstrations of positive outcomes
  • They take action when they believe there’ll be a reward for their endeavors

So first, if there’s a universal political mindset, it doesn’t show up in the top two-thirds of North America (just for comparison, Senator Obama’s website communication style for today is K8, Senator McCain’s is V15. More on this in following posts).

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

Can we guess based on this how Dion and Harper will fair in Canada?

Probably, with more time and interest. But what we can take away is that these two Canadian politicians communicate their messages about as well as do their US counterparts. None of them are doing a particularly good or even mediocre job of reaching the majority of their constituencies.

What about other US politicians? Fortunately NextStage has lots of historical data to pull in order to answer that question.

Senator Clinton’s site used K9, V10.

Governor Romney’s went from V7, to V1 to V10 to K9 to K9 from 10 Feb 07 to 7 Sept 07.

Senator Thompson’s went from V8 to V7 in less than a week’s time at one point.

Senator Edwards stayed pretty much a V2 for the entire time we were watching.

So is there a universal political mindset? Maybe and it’s not obvious from this little study here. Hence on this evidence alone, if the campaign sites are designed for other politicians… I’m guessing they’re not. At least they’re not at a level that ET can determine at this level of analysis.

That brings me to the last part of WindKiller’s question, “How would you change Obama’s web site to target that valuable V19 demographic from your pie chart?”

Sorry, WindKiller, that I won’t share in a blog post. It’s an easy answer, simply one we’d charge for. If that’s an option, do let me know…

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The Complete “Barack Obama, John McCain, Politics, Presidential Election 2008 and Political Websites 19 Aug 08 (080829)” Arc

Note: This was originally a two part arc, now all is here so enjoy and tell your friends.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Politics, Presidential Election 2008 and Political Websites 19 Aug 08 (080829)

This post continues my analysis of 2008 US Presidential election campaign websites. You can find a complete list at Politics. I’m going to start with a historical analysis of the campaign sites and bring things up to date. It’s going to cover several posts, so enjoy the ride. I know I have so far and I’ve only written this one in this particular series.

One of the things I’m always intrigued by is how messaging changes (if indeed it does) as campaigns move on through time, get their rhythm, find their stride, etc. For example, has the messaging changed since our first peek at campaign websites in this election cycle?

It’s not what they say, it’s how they say it
Perhaps you’ve known someone whose positions you agree with even though you don’t like the person, or you like what they have to say and wish they’d use a little more tact in saying it? Politicians (more correctly, political speech writers) spend a great deal of time saying things just the way (they think) you want to hear it.

Given that a politician changing his or her stance in the middle of an election cycle would definitely make things interesting, I doubt it’ll be done. Intentionally.

What they can do is change how they say it. This happened rarely if ever during the 2004 campaign season…except when the national conventions were being televised. The change in President Bush’s campaign site changed (literally) overnight and didn’t change back until the convention was over. The major change? Everything was geared to getting eyeballs from the computer to the TV.

So let’s take a look at how messaging has changed over time this campaign cycle thus far…

Saturday, 10 Feb 07

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Senator McCain’s homepage on Saturday, 10 Feb 07 was a study in shades of gray. It was communicating using what we recognize as a V16 style (These people need to have information presented to them in pictures, charts or graphs, they finalize their decisions by using internal dialog, they need information framed in a positive manner before they can accept it and they have no sense of time or process). For those of you following along with Myers-Briggs concepts, NextStage’s V16 covers ISTJ and ISFP personality types.

At that point in time the number of people in the US who would respond positively to V16 messaging was 0.

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What else was the homepage saying about candidate John McCain?

Depending on who contributed most directly to the look and feel of this page, the strongest message of these was that Senator McCain had a vision for the country, followed by a belief that he was Presidential material and could lead us to a better place.

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Who was the homepage appealing to gender-wise? It was designed to favor a male audience by a 69/31 ratio.

Tuesday, 6 Mar 07

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We next visited Senator McCain’s site on Tuesday, 6 Mar 07. A few more colors are being used.

I don’t remember if what he was saying changed. I do know how he was saying it shifted considerably. In one month the messaging went from v16 to K9 (These people prefer to experience something firsthand before making any decisions about it, they are hesitant to attempt anything new, they are convinced by arguments which end with a warning about what might happen, they make decisions which favor avoidance of future problems rather than acceptance of future rewards). Do remember this describes the type of person who’ll be most receptive to what’s on the homepage. There is no attempt here to indicate a candidate’s personal or political beliefs or ideology.

Again, for those keeping track via Myers-Briggs, the site is designed to appeal to ISFP and ESFJ personality types.

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What about messaging?

Here is an interesting thing. I don’t remember if Senator McCain’s platform changed, his politics changed, his “what he was saying when he said it” changed. What I do know is that his messaging (at least on his website) changed greatly. Before whoever had control of the homepage’s look and feel believed Senator McCain could lead us to a better place, but was he Presidential material? Was he electable?

In one month’s time someone (with their “hands at the wheel” so to speak) decided he definitely was.

And here it’s important to recognize that changes in percentages tell only a part of the story because it’s not only how you say it, it’s how “loudly” you say it.

There is (in the concepts at work here) something equivalent to a very bright light shining in someone’s eyes, shouting in someone’s ears, tapping them repeatedly to get their attention. This bright light/shouting/tapping is very specific to western culture and shows up often in marketing and advertising directed to the western trained mind; confidence is demonstrated by brightness, loudness, action. These things signify boldness, a sense of having nothing to hide.

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So was the new homepage shining a light, shouting and tapping vigorously? Compared to the 10 Feb 07 site it certainly was. In most cases the intensity of the message doubled or tripled with some messages being fairly “shouted from the rooftops”.

One thing to note is the change in the “I Have a Vision for This Country” message. It’s intensity decreased by more than half. Perhaps those in charge of the website, Senator McCain or his advisors lost their focus or decided having a vision for the country wasn’t as important this time around?

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Gender-wise, the site changed little if at all; it was 69/31. Now it was 68/32.

Thursday, 22 Mar 07

Just over two weeks later and another major change to the look and feel of the site, yes? Senator McCain is back to being front and center and now he’s in color. He is “in the flesh” as it were, a real person with real possibilities, perhaps?

Gender-wise the numbers had not changed in the two week interval. They remained at M/F 68/32.

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Messaging-wise, we see a return to the relative values and style (a return to the V16 messaging style) of Saturday, 10 Feb 07. Things like this cause me to wonder, “Wha’ happened?” What caused the change over such a relatively short period of time and what brought things back? Did a new web team come on board and then get released? Did a new marketing or advisory group take the helm only to be cast out a few days later? And why?

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These types of questions can often be answered when you look at messaging intensity. Here we learn that messaging values have returned to near 10 Feb 07 numbers but that intensities are now weaker than they were before.

Again, I don’t remember what was happening about this point in time. Seeing changes like this my thoughts tend to be

  • Some kind of push was made, some distinct effort, and that the results weren’t those wanted, hence a return to what was working before
  • An announcement was made — think of a new or upgraded product release — and once made things went back to the way they were
  • Somebody did something and got caught

That aside, the brain perceives gestalts non-consciously, determines if anything requires attention and if so promotes it to consciousness so we can focus on it. The gestalt here — whether intentional or otherwise — is that Senator McCain is a quiet, humble sort of fellow, likeable and honest, a “speak softly and carry a big stick” kind of guy.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Politics, Presidential Election 2008 and Political Websites, part 2

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Starting with Senator Obama’s homepage on Saturday, 10 Feb 07…

Saturday, 10 Feb 07

Senator Obama’s campaign website homepage was communicating using a V15 style (Myers-Briggs equivalent is ISFJ). Senator McCain’s site was using a V16 style. What’s the difference?

V15 V16
  • These people make decisions based on what they see, picture and charts are strong influencers
  • They have a poor sense of time or involvement
  • They are more apt to believe and accept negative statements
  • They tend to become confused when time-factors are demonstrated as important to a decision
  • These people need to have information presented to them in pictures, charts or graphs
  • They finalize their decisions by using internal dialog
  • They need information framed in a positive manner before they can accept it
  • They have no sense of time or process

First, there’s several dozen more elements to each communication style, what I’m sharing here are just the tip of the iceberg. That offered, we often tell web clients that all they need concern themselves with is the tip of the iceberg.

What are the substantive differences? Recognizing that they share similarities, the Obama site was going after people who needed some finger-pointing before they were willing to get involved, almost a “Come on, people. Wake up! This isn’t your fault unless you’re not willing to do something about it” whereas the McCain site was communicating “Think about it. Here are some ideas on how to change things”.

Presidential Messaging

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At this point in time Senator Obama’s strongest messages were that he had a vision for this country and that he could lead us to a better place.

Hmmm… you know, it never occurred to me to look for a “My god we’re in one heck of a hole and I don’t know anybody who could get us out of this one” message. Might be a fun exercise in my copious free time to work out the math…I wondered about that because, looking at the strongest messages in this particular homepage, I thought “well, yeah. Of course those will be strong messages. Duh!

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Remember my writing previously that messages are one thing, the strength of the messages is another? Let’s compare the relative intensities with which Senators McCain and Obama were broadcasting their presidential messages.

What we see here is that Senator Obama was (depending on how you want to spin it) either working much harder at getting his message out or he was shouting much louder.

What’s most interesting to me, however, is that both candidates (at this point in time) are pretty much not listening and definitely not listening to “you”, the voting public (or anybody else, evidently). This is interesting to me because not listening to voters’ concerns was one of the most distinct downfalls of the candidates in the 2004 campaign season (as documented in Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History).

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What about gender?

The Republicans have been calling Senator Obama a celebrity and rock star for quite a while now although I don’t know if they were making their claim at this point in time. Based on what the Republican and McCain sponsored ads are demonstrating, I believe part of the “rock star/celebrity” claim is Senator Obama’s appeal to a female audience.

Though not appealing to a predominantly female audience, back in Feb 07 Senator Obama’s website’s gender appeal numbers were excellent in the sense that he was appealing fairly equally to both men and women. Difficult to do and nicely done.

Tuesday, 6 Mar 07

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A little less than a month later and the Obama site is still reaching out to a V15 audience. The relative messaging (percentages of total message) didn’t change all that much. He’s still broadcasting the same messages at about the same strengths relative to each other. Nor, for that matter, did his gender appeal change that much. It went all the way from 53/47 to 52/48 M/F, not enough to be concerned about at this level of inspection.

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The fact that the gender appeal has remained relatively stable for about a month does indicate that there’s more intention (if not method). It’s very impressive if intended and still impressive if it wasn’t as that close a gender appeal is usually difficult to do without lots of work (and training).

Who’s Shouting the Loudest?

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According to [[(sorry, it’s as gone as the original blog)]] WindKiller’s comment on my previous post, Senator McCain’s homepage at this point in time coincided with his announcement that he was officially running for US President. That is borne out by the numbers in this chart. He’s fairly “shouting at the top of his lungs” (not a judgement, just a comparison) compared to Senator Obama’s homepage, especially the “I Have a Vision for This Country” message.

Again (and I think noteworthy), note that neither candidate is neither listening nor listening to “you”. In fact, it appears their both not listening at about the same level. This is interesting to me from a marketing perspective and especially as I tend to view comparisons like these to analyzing competitive marketing campaigns.

At this point in time it seems that listening to the general public wasn’t something anybody thought worth doing, or at least not worth emphasizing.

So much for “your opinion counts”, huh?

Thursday, 22 Mar 07

A little over two weeks later and so little has changed communications and messaging wise on Senator Obama’s homepage that I am strongly reminded of the 2004 campaign; so little changed day to day that its monotony became mind-numbing (to me, anyway).

The homepage still communicates best to a V15 audience, the gender appeal is still 52/48 and the Presidential Messages numbers have changed so little as to be inconsequential.

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However, the Obama homepage’s consistency can be a good thing for audiences that like consistency (note that V15‘s aren’t necessarily motivated by consistency. The Obama homepage was being “out shouted” by the McCain homepage briefly and when compared to the McCain homepage for Thursday, 22 Mar 07, the Obama homepage is definitely stating its purposes more clearly to the largest possible audience.

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What McCain said about Obama and Palin to Hillary and Biden

This post continues my analysis of 2008 US Presidential election campaign websites started in Senator McCain’s campaign site homepages (10 Feb, 6 and 22 Mar 07). For those who came because of the title (perhaps thinking you’d discover some great dish) no, sorry. I’m just curious to see where such a title ends up in search listings. It seems information on presidential politics (as such) isn’t something of great interest to the online community and I wonder why.

Anyway, you can find a complete list of this blog’s political posts at Politics.

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Onto Senator Obama’s homepage on Sunday, 24 June 07…

Sunday, 24 June 07

On this day Senator Obama’s campaign website homepage was using a K15 communication style (Myers-Briggs equivalents are ENFP, ENFJ and ENTP). This marks a departure from the three previous analyses which were all V15s. What’s the difference?

V15 K15
  • These people make decisions based on what they see, picture and charts are strong influencers
  • They have a poor sense of time or involvement
  • They are more apt to believe and accept negative statements
  • They tend to become confused when time-factors are demonstrated as important to a decision
  • These people prefer to experience things firsthand
  • Their long-lasting decisions and learning’s will be made based on an overall sense of what to avoid
  • They base decisions on immediate experience and tend to be negative in nature
  • They tend to ignore positive-based information as either unreal or unsubstantiated

Does such a shift in communication style benefit Senator Obama’s efforts?

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Well, not really. K15s and V15s make up such a small percentage of the population webwise that reaching out to them is not useful at all and is probably more an indication of the mental processes of the people designing Senator Obama’s website than it is a statement of who they’re wanting to reach. The chart on the right shows all specific communication/decision styles that are over 5% of the US population. Neither K15 nor V15 are listed. For that matter, they don’t show up regardless of how fine a comb you use.

For what it’s worth, it is rare that a website is truly designed for some audience segment. It may be designed for some demographic and it is rare that it is actually designed for how that demographic thinks.

But for arguments sake, let’s say Senator Obama’s site, while being targeted towards K15s on this particular day, was really going for a larger slice of the pie, something that encapsulated K15s yet wasn’t so stringent in its requirements? NextStage calculates these communication styles based on a variety of factors. What if we only consider four factors?

Sadly, leaving only the four primary factors still has Senator Obama’s website on this day communicating to 0% of population.

With three factors things change a little. You have to ask, “Which three factors are most important?” Do you care about whether they understand the consequences of their actions? Then Senator Obama’s website is still pulling in 0% of the vote (so to speak). But what if you care about their outlook on life? Then he’s communicating to just under 10% of the population.

At two factors (again depending which two you consider important), the site’s best efforts speak to 19.5% of the population, and at one factor (interestingly enough) the number goes down to 17.2%.

I suppose it’s heartening to know Americans aren’t single issue voters even if they think they are.

What else changes from our previous investigation?

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For one thing, there’s a slight shift in gender appeal. He’s now going after noticeably more male audience (the bottom bars on the image).

The homepage is also stating its messages more forcefully than before, although in much the same proportions as before. I mentioned in previous posts that stating a message is one thing, how well/loud/intensely the messages is stated is another matter entirely.

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This image shows the relative strengths of the different Presidential messages. It’s obvious that (in most cases) the website is broadcasting those messages a little stronger/louder/more forcefully/with more intensity.

Will this be intuitively obvious to the casual observer? Probably not. First, the proportional strengths of the messages hasn’t changed much if any at all.

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Compare this chart with the previous one. The intensities of the messages has increased and their proportional intensity is much as it had been a few months earlier. The end result is that people will probably pay more attention (much as any loud noise or bright light, etc., will catch our attention until we determine a) continue paying attention at a cognitive level (you might like what you’re reading, etc) or b) dismiss the stimulus as irrelevant) at least for a moment.

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