Fred Thompson; Is He Changing His Tune? And How Does He Compare with Governor Mitt Romney? Before and After NextStage Analysis of Campaign Messaging Styles

[[updating lost posts in prep for Reading Virtual Minds Volume 2: Experience and Expectation]]

Frequent reader and correspondent WindKiller posed a question on the Senator Fred Thompson and the Marketing of a Presidential Hopeful: A NextStage Analysis of the Fred Thompson for President Homepage entry and I responded on that post and in a phone conversation that I’d get back to him on how much is encapsulated in NextStage’s Rich Personae (it’s now our PersonaScope and is included with Membership).

I wanted to do that by tying it to a before and after analysis of Senator Fred Thompson’s campaign site. It’s always fascinating to see how somebody changes their messaging after an announcement.

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The casual observer won’t notice much different between the site as it was on 1 Sept 07 (on the right) and how it appeared on both 5 Sept 07 and 6 Sept 07. That’s a good thing because in politics, it’s the positive and familiar that wins votes.

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This is the 5 Sept 07 homepage. There’s the naturally occuring changes in content that you’d expect on any high traffic site. Both the 1 Sept 07 and the 5 Sept 07 homepages are designed for the V8 Rich Personae.

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This is Senator Fred Thompson’s campaign site on 6 Sept 07. The changes are more obvious to the casual observer and again, you’d expect them to be after a major announcement. What is interesting to me is that the site is now using a V7 Rich Personae. This was the personae used by Governor Mitt Romney. It was Senator Thompson’s use of the V8 Rich Personae and its “You’re doing a good job. Let me show you something that might help you out.” versus Governor Romney’s V7 message’s “You’re doing it wrong, do it my way. It’s better.” that I thought would separate Senator Thompson from the pack.

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Before I forget, the other modification to Senator Thompson’s site is a new “prepage” before you get to what most would consider the real homepage. This is something we saw often during the 2004 campaigns. From a consumer perspective it’s not something I would encourage. This page, encountered before all others, essentially asks the visitor to buy the product before learning if the product is a good match for what ails them. The assumption on Senator Thompson’s staff may be that he’s so well known at this point that anybody coming to the site is coming to join. I’m not so sure. This page, by the way, is designed for a K7 Rich Personae, ie, it has a good, strong, emotional appeal. Just what you’d want if you thought people already knew about you and you wanted them to act in your behalf.

This gets us to what else is encapsulated in NextStage’s Rich Personae. NextStage’s Rich Personae also reveal most prominent messages, strongest messages, messages in the order they appear to the non-conscious mind, … It’s pretty…um…rich.

Also, as you begin to get deeper and deeper into the Rich Personae system, you’ll learn that the strongest message on, for example, a young female V7 is different from a mature, male V7.

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Here, Senator Thompson’s strongest message is “Compare me to others and you will see that I can put us on a path and bring structure to this country. You can count on it.” Governor Mitt Romney’s strongest message is very similar with two significant edits; “[no comparison desired or implied] You will see that I can put us on a path and bring structure to this place. Are you with me, yes or no?” Perhaps Senator Thompson sees Governor Romney as having the audience he wants, hence the deep messaging is the same. The substantive difference between the two sites is that Governor Romney, if he were talking to you, would be saying his message twice as loud as Senator Thompson.

Back in the day when Senator Thompson’s site was designed for a V8 Rich Personae, its message was similar except for the missing introductory call to comparison;”[no comparison desired or implied] You will see that I can put us on a path and bring structure to this place. You can count on it.

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Senator Fred Thompson and the Marketing of a Presidential Hopeful: A NextStage Analysis of the Fred Thompson for President Homepage

[[updating lost posts in prep for Reading Virtual Minds Volume 2: Experience and Expectation]]

(yes, I’m still exploring that SEO/SEM thing)

I’ve been thinking for a while that NextStage should do an analysis of Senator and actor Fred Thompson’s campaign site. What’s been stopping me is that he’s not officially announced he’s running for President and he doesn’t actually have an official campaign site that I know of (remember, I’m remarkably out of the loop on politics). The reason I decided to run an analysis is because I’d heard he was going to make his official announcement sometime this coming week.

I went to VoteSmart.org because they list official campaign sites and found I’mWithFred listed as his official site, so I was off and at it.

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Here is Senator and actor Fred Thompson’s official campaign site homepage as it appears today, 1 Sept 07. We analyzed it using NextStage’s TargetTrack (it’s now included in our Membership package) tool, as we do with all such things.

What got me right off the bat is that this homepage uses a V8 Rich Persona. This got my attention because way back in Feb ’07 we analyzed Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign website and found it had a V7 Rich Persona. One of the most obvious differences between the two is that Governor Romney’s messaging was originally designed for individuals who “…like to talk things over with a knowledgeable person who needs to point out the negative aspects of a decision in order to be taken seriously.” Senator Thompson’s messaging is designed for individuals who “…like to talk things over with an authority figure (real or imagined) who needs to point out the positive aspects of a decision in order to be taken seriously.

This difference is telling in how these two campaigns perceive who their candidate is and what that candidate’s strengths are on a personal (hence “Persona” level).

First, I do note that Governor Romney has changed his messaging style since Feb ’07. With that in mind, Governor Romney originally wanted people to perceive him as someone who could show them the error of their ways and set them on the right path. Senator Thompson is using a very different psychological strategy to gain voters; he wants people to see him as an an experienced person who can help them achieve more.

In more obvious terms it would be phrased this way; Governor Romney was saying to voters, “You’re doing it wrong, do it my way. It’s better.” while Senator Thompson’s message is “You’re doing a good job. Let me show you something that might help you out.”

We’ll be watching to see if Senator Thompson’s messaging changes once he officially starts his campaign.

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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

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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).

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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.

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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.

Maybe.

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.

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NextStage’s Token Republican Calls McCain a Raging Duopolist!

First, the original title for this post was “Barack Obama, John McCain, Politics, Presidential Election 2008 and Political Websites 13 Aug 08 (080813)” and I welcome comments on my thought processes based on that title. Even as I wrote it I was amazed at what it was revealing about me and my decision making processes.

What’s amusing is that most people aren’t aware of what’s influencing their decision making processes, political or otherwise. For example, the word choices and order above demonstrate that I prefer place more than time and that I like to push myself through difficult situations if I know there’s safety, solace and surety on the other side (ie, I’ll tolerate storms if I know smooth sailing follows). Want to know how you think? Add a comment and I’ll let you know.

But enough of that. What’s this post really about?

I’ve been thinking it’s time to put up some posts about the 2008 Presidential campaign sites. We correctly predicted political outcomes months in advance in 2004 and during the 2008 primaries (see links below). One of NextStage’s developers, Stonewall, sent me an article that turned into Stonewall’s Findings: The Genetics of Politics and today I read Voting: In Your Genes? in the 25 July 08 issue of Science so I guess it might be time.

What follows is a brief, high level analysis of the John McCain and Barack Obama campaign sites for 13 Aug 08. More analyses may follow. Depends on the response I get to this one. And how the mood strikes me.

[[sorry, we didn’t catalog an image for this]]

We used our TargetTrack [[Note: The results here are now in NextStage’s Political Analyzer Tool, which is available to NextStage Members]] on three webpages. One was Senator McCain’s homepage [[not]] shown above.

There was a big of discussion when it came to Senator Obama’s homepage. Was the actual homepage a “splash” page or an “index” page?

This was something that came up during the last Presidential campaign cycle. I don’t remember which candidate(s) had a page before the official site homepage, only that we had some very intense internal discussions on what constitutes a “homepage”.

For NextStage’s purposes — we deal with human perception and how people interact with information in their environment, remember? — we decided (okay, I decided) that the first page a visitor comes to is de facto the homepage of the site.

[[didn’t keep a copy of this one, either]]

Thus, the first page a visitor to Senator Obama’s site will encounter as of this writing is [[not]] shown above. A probable second page is [[not]] shown below. Careful readers might think I got things a little mixed up on a quick read. The largest visual element in the image above — a screenshot of Senator McCain’s homepage — is Senator Obama.

This caused confusion in more than one of us and before we performed any analytics. I actually called Senator McCain’s headquarters to ask them a) was that intentional and if not b) someone had hacked into their site. Not only is the largest visual element Senator Obama, the framing text in the visual field is “FAN CLUB” and “The Obama FAN CLUB”. That text is so large in contrast with the rest of the text that it’s doubtful the rest of the text will be seen.

[[don’t got this one, neither]]

And I’m not here to tell the candidates’ web design team how to improve their sites. What I am here to do is document some high level aspects of what our TargetTrack tool determined about each of these pages.

I’ve documented elsewhere the ten messages we look for in Presidential material (see links). How each page breaks out is given below:

Page Messaging as Percentages
Message McCain Obama Splash Obama Index
I’m Presidential Material 14 12 7
I’m Electable 13 13 16
I Have a Vision 9 10 9
I Have a Vision for this Country 30 24 24
I’m Listening 3 6 5
I’m Listening to You 3 6 5
I Can Lead Us to a Better Place 16 14 21
I Can Get Us Out of this Problem/Trouble/Mess 5 8 6
I’m a Good Person 4 6 5
They’re Not Good People 2 1 1

Understanding the Chart

The numbers above are an indication of how strongly a given message comes through on a given page. These messages are delivered mostly non-consciously via colors, images, font size, so on and so forth. What’s most important is that people’s responses to these messages are the basis for the conscious decisions they’ll make. Do the candidates or their site designers know they’re placing these non-conscious messages into their sites?

It’s not likely and that’s where the real danger comes in. For example, I doubt that either Senator Obama or his site designer wants “I’m Presidential Material” to be one of the weaker messages on that site’s “homepage” especially when the McCain site broadcasts that message almost twice as strong.

Similarly, all three pages devote a about a quarter of their energy to conveying the message “I Have a Vision for this Country”. Good thing, yes, and no page conveys that the candidates care very much about you, the voters’, opinion (the “I’m Listening” and “I’m Listening to You”) messages.

Clearly, Senator Obama’s index page conveys “I Can Lead Us to a Better Place” more than any other.

What else is of interest? Senator Obama’s index page coveys a lower value for “I’m Presidential Material” than it does for “I’m Electable” by better than a 2:1 margin. A possible interpretation is that whoever had input to the site design thinks Senator Obama is electable, yes, but doesn’t believe he’s Presidential material. At least at this point in time.

The McCain effort re Obama doesn’t come off as such until cognitive processes kick in (the 2 for “They’re not good people”. This is an indication that the negative message isn’t working at a non-conscious, “priming the mind to agree” level.

What are the real issues for the people having a say in these pages? That’s demonstrated where the numbers vary greatly; “I’m Presidential Material”, “I Have a Vision for this Country” and “I Can Lead Us to a Better Place”.

Aside from that, the McCain homepage is going to cause a lot of initial confusion. Consider the following exchange I had with NextStage’s token Republican.


I don’t think this is going to work for McCain.The tv ad is the same way. McCain is making this election a referendum on Obama rather than a contest between too candidates. The tv ad calls Obama the biggest celebrity around with photos of Paris Hilton and someone else followed by a shot of Obama and a cheering audience. Basically, it seems McCain is campaigning on the basis you can vote for Obama or against Obama. Apparently you check off “McCain” if you are voting against Obama. Maybe it is the evolution of politics. How many times have we heard we are voting for the candidate we hate the least? It has seemed to me that candidates that make a big push in the fall get elected.

The fall push thing probably as to do with what’s called “working memory”.

Remember when Nader and Perot gained a push by announcing candidacy late in the summer/early fall? Maybe McCain has decided not to put himself out there until the fall instead of letting the public stew on him over the course of the summer. When you have a wealth of options for marketing and a fully functioning duopoly, so that the worst you can finish is second, nothing seems like a bad idea.

What a quote! “NextStage’s Token Republican Calls McCain a Raging Duopolist!”

Crap, that’ll get me arrested

Oh, you know that’s going to be the post header! Crap, I’m laughing just thinking about it.

I think it is a moral imperative to make that the post header.

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