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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Canoeing with Stephane (Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 2))

The iMedia Brand Summit has kept me a little busy, and I do keep my promises.

One of the folks I asked about Sentiment Analysis prior to writing Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1) was Stephane Hamel. I asked Stephane for a site I could analyze without my knowing anything about their strategy, demographics and such. Stephane suggested canoe.ca since it’s a well known Canadian site that receives lots of traffic and has lots of diversified content.

Canoe French homepage

The Canoe.ca site has an English and a French version so we analyzed the homepages of both versions to demonstrate the differences in cultural cuing. This image is the Canoe French homepage. Below is the English homepage. The information I’m sharing comes out of our tools, specifically the one I described in Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1).

Canoe English homepage

This image is the Canoe English homepage. I’ll share at this point that the tool I’m using reads whatever digital information you give it exactly like a human of the intended culture would read it, provide it material in French and it thinks in French, provide it material in Gaelic and it thinks in Gaelic (we get a lot of calls for that, you betcha. The first language our technology understood was Gaelic because if you can do Gaelic you can do anything. Now we’re teaching it Etruscan because you never know when you might want to sell sandals to a dead gladiator). What makes the tool different from the standard human is its ability to report on what will or would happen in the reader’s mind at the non-conscious and conscious levels. Most people don’t have that kind of training, our technology (Evolution Technology or “ET”) does.

Age Appeal

Both homepages are designed for (not necessarily intended for. We’re not talking about who the desired audience is, we’re talking about who this material is going to work best with) relatively tight demographics. The French homepage will appeal to about 71% of the 25-34yo native French speakers who see it, the English homepage will appeal to about 60% of the 35-44yo native English speakers who see it.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
When I originally presented this analysis to Stephane for comment I thought that a possible reason for the different age appeal targeting was that the canoe.ca site was a Quebec specific site, hence English might be a second language — meaning learned via education or life experience — for Canoe visitors (ET will interpret higher levels of education and life experience as “more mature” hence add a few years to its age appeal estimates).

Stephane explained that canoe.ca was created in Toronto then moved into Quebec, and that the English site is still done in Toronto and the French site in Quebec.

In any case, what’s most interesting is the relative spikyness of the Appeal charts. This material — regardless of the intended audience or its origins– is designed to best appeal to a limited age demographic.

<Stephaneism>
Stephane noted:

Another thing… your classifications aren’t equal… why 15-19 (5 years), 35-44 (10 years), 55-59 (5 years)… Does each of the graph age ranges have the same “population size”?
The age groupings are based on neurology more than much else. The five year groups occur when the brain starts to change, the ten year groups are when the brain is relatively stable neurologically.
Usually, I think each segment should be the same range (number of years). If population is different sizes for different ranges it usually mean the number of classes should be reviewed. Am I wrong?

Excellent catch. The age breakdowns are based more on the most recent and most well documented neurology studies than anything else. As such, they can fluctuate from time to time. ET’s basis for understanding and decision making is neuroscientific, not marketing demographics per se. Originally we tailored the age breakdowns to match the US Census bureau’s breakdown and do our best to match those the best we can.

That offered, if you can define the age breakdowns of greatest interest to you (maybe 15-24, 25-39, 40-54, 55-74, … work best for you) we can tell ET and have the results appropriate to your needs.

</Stephaneism>

</ET Tool Training Alert>

Clarity/Understandability

Readers of Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1) or Websites: You’ve Only Got 3 Seconds will remember that there are three “age” levels designers really need to be concerned with; Appeal, Clarity and Actionability. The brain-mind system doesn’t “think” in terms of a chronologic age, it “thinks” using one subsystem to determine “Is this going to be important?” (that’s Appeal), another subsystem to determine “Do I understand why this is important?” (that’s Clarity, Cognition, Understandability, call it what you will, god knows we have) and yet another subsystem to determine “Shall I do something about this?” (that’s Actionability).

The chart above shows that both English and French homepages will be best understood by a broad demographic, yes (the curve doesn’t spike), as well as a large population (its position on the chart).

<ET Tool Training Alert>
There is a possible problem when the Appeal and Clarity charts are taken together. The ideal is that Clarity peak at an age demographic just shy of the Appeal peak. This is necessary because humans, once you’ve got their attention, want to quickly determine if something is important or not. This desire to quickly understand something’s importance means less neural activity is required and ET reads that as a slight drop in neurologic age requirements.

However, the Clarity here is above the Appeal of both English and French audiences, meaning both audiences will need to work (as in “think about”) what’s on each page in order to understand its importance to them. If these pages truly are designed for the Appeal spikes, then they will not be easily understood by those age groups, hence Actionability (click through, conversion, whatever) will be lower than it could be.

On the other hand, if the target audience is 35-59yo, this Clarity is fine. Now the problem is that the age group will not find the homepages appealing enough to devote time or energy to them (except possibly some percentage of native English speakers), meaning “your conversions/clickthroughs/… would be higher with a judicious redesign”.
</ET Tool Training Alert>

Actionability (conversions, clickthroughs, …)

Both sites are designed to be actionable by 35-44yo. This is great for the French site (and assuming it is correctly designed for its intended audience) and not so good for the English site. Actionability needs to be a tad more than the Appeal because action requires effort and ET reports this as an increase in neurologic activity, hence a shift to a more mature age group.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
The good news for the French site is that the Actionability spike is pretty much as the same height as the Appeal spike and it’s in the correct demographic. This means every native French speaker who comes to the French homepage will act on it.

Unfortunately, the Clarity value is way off from where it should be. Native French speaking visitors may find the site appealing and be able to act upon it but they will not understand what it is they should do, hence numbers could be higher with some redesigns.

The English Actionability is acceptable and is also quite the spike. It almost matches the Appeal spike, but the page also suffers from the Clarity issue.

</ET Tool Training Alert>

Gender

Both sites favor a male audience design wise and in roughly equal measure.

Rich Personae, {C,B/e,M} Matrix

Often this is where real cultural design differences make themselves known. The English site is designed for an A9 Rich Persona (I’ve written about Rich Persona on this blog and in iMediaConnection), the French site for a V16 Rich Persona.

The A9 Rich Persona has the following attributes when it encounters web based information:

  • These people focus on the negative, they make decisions based on what might go wrong
  • They are motivated to take action when things are phrased in the negative
  • They often need to confirm their beliefs with visual information
  • They’re motivated by avoiding trouble and are strongly influenced by the possibilities of difficulties down the road

The V16 attributes 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

So we immediately see that the French homepage is designed for happier people than the English page.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
The fact that the two sites target completely different personality types can be a plus or a minus based on how much of the Canoe visitor populations match these psychological profiles. What is most important is that what is essentially the same design will target very different psychologies based on the native language of the visitor.

Which personality profile is better? Couldn’t tell you without knowing more about the goals for the site.

</ET Tool Training Alert>

10 Must Messages

10%20must%20messages%200906081039-small.jpg

The basis for communication and relationship are what NextStage calls “The 10 Must Messages”, meaning unless your site is communicating this messages well your site won’t work at all.

<Aside>
Interestingly enough, during the iMedia Brand Summit Master’s Class I taught earlier this week I asked all the attendees what the basic function of a website was. There were lots of answers and none of them were the most important one; to establish a relationship between the visitor and the brand. Regardless of intent, a relationship is being established and the success of that relationship is going to be based on how well the site communicates these messages to the visitors.
</Aside>

What we see here is something I mentioned in Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1), that Canadian based companies tend to shout “We’re a Leader”. The fact that the two lines have roughly the same shape is to be expected (my guess is the same design group handled both homepages or a single template was used for both). Again we see some cultural based differences in the strength of the messaging.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
Take each line separately and the values are fair, there’s not a lot of shouting. What is a problem for both sites is the “This Is Important” message’s relative weakness. It is so low compared to most other messages on either site that visitors will feel no sense of urgency, no impulse to act, and in any case nowhere near as strong as it could be. The ideal would be for the “This Is Important” message and the “This Is Important To You” message to be high with the latter just enough higher to have visitors non-consciously recognize the difference.

I tend to liken the difference between these two messages to hearing the newscaster tell you about some news story then call in their talking-head to explain specifically why this news story is important to the viewer. Another way of thinking about their difference is the recognition that something may be important but not relevant to the individual versus important and relevant.

In any case, you can’t convince people that something is both important and relevant unless you first convince them that it’s important, period.

</ET Tool Training Alert>

Suggestions

That brings us to the last thing ET will report on, what to do to change the design for the target audience. I don’t know who the target is so any suggestions would be irrelevant, me thinks.

<Stephaneism>
After reading this analysis, Stephane commented:

I think what’s also interesting is ET gives you the data and the charts, but you still have to know that “Actionability needs to be a tad more than the Appeal because action requires effort”. The next stage of ET (no pun intended!) could involve bringing this “higher intelligence” (your intelligence!) to a rule engine that would gradually integrate this additional knowledge.
Let me take an example… web analytics tools today collect, analyze and provide the data, but they don’t provide any insight. Yet, some rules are readily applicable if we see high traffic from a specific campaign but a lower conversion rate than average: incoming traffic is less qualified, the campaign might need to be realigned. This intelligence could be integrated directly into the tool to raise “alarms” when things like this happen. The system would need to be trained and the architecture should allow to include new rules easily.

This is an excellent thought and yes, we’ve got it covered. People who’ve heard or seen my presentations know that one of ET’s differentiators is its ability to make suggestions. The tool that produces these reports — the one that doesn’t need a tag on a client’s site to generate actionable results — provides suggestions that incorporate “my intelligence” and additional knowledge (the system borrows heavily from knowledge management systems I worked on several years back) into its analysis. If I understand the rules system you’re describing, it’s already in there.

Anyway, we’re currently in the process of looking for alpha clients to help us integrate those rule engines into the product that does these analyses. [[(Already done and in NextStage OnSite, NextStage Experience Optimizer, NextStage Immediate Sentiment and NextStage Veritas Gauge)]]

</Stephaneism>

And there you go, Stephane. Hope it’s useful.


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Alberto Gonzales from the NextStage Perspective

I was asked today to write something about AG Alberto Gonzales’ resignation. I could offer an opinion and I don’t like doing such things. For one, I don’t think I’m qualified. For two, why would anybody be interested in my opinion about Alberto Gonzales?

Alberto Gonzales

Clients come to NextStage and ask similar such questions about their marketing material, their strategies, lots of things. I tell them I’m not qualified to give an opinion. What I can do is use NextStage’s TargetTrack software to analyze what was really being communicated. Lots of companies use us for that and I’ve written about it several times.

Before reading TargetTrack’s findings, note that we used the TargetTrack video decoder, not the TargetTrack available via our website. Also, TargetTrack is the ultimate impartial observer. It has no biases, prejudices, political affiliations, concerns, beliefs, etc. It doesn’t worry about what might happen tomorrow or what happened yesterday. It’s only concern is “What does this mean right now?”

Gonzales communicated that he

  • makes decisions by talking things over with himself, not others.
  • tends to focus his full attention on what he’s deciding about
  • is not a good multi-tasker
  • makes decisions by figuring out the worst possible outcome then avoiding it
  • finalizes his decisions based on a gut feeling
  • often can’t describe or relate his decision making process
  • doesn’t make decisions based on personal experience
  • doesn’t understand or make use of processes easily
  • has a poor time sense

  • is confused by arguments involving time- or process-based statements or examples
  • avoids making a decision when the only information they are given is either time or process based
  • easily accepts information that points out flaws or errors in their own or someone else’s logic

  • tends to over or under commit and becomes frustrated with himself when he realizes that he’s over committed himself
  • most strongly believes he does not require supervision
  • strongly believes he works well with others
  • believes his abilities to serve and his competence are about average
  • believes his trustworthiness and reliability are below average (note that the these two communications could truly be “of the moment”)

The strongest message communicated was a belief that time will vindicate both himself and the Bush administration.

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NextStage said Romney and it was Romney

I suspect, even as I write this, there will be some who poo-poo what I put in this post. Never-the-less, I talked with a few NextStagers (I know, it’s Sunday. I really honestly don’t work on Sundays. I don’t consider this work, though) and we all agreed that we should post it, so here goes.

On 8 July ’07, in How Politicians Want You to Think – Who’s Saying It Best, Finale, I posted the following comment: “Right now Governor Romney’s leading the field. … Right now, he’s in the lead as far as who can best be heard.

This statement was made on the basis of NextStage’s tools analyzing of Governor Romney’s messaging style — his ability to get his campaign message into the hearts and minds of the greatest number of people. The tool most used to make this prediction is NextStage’s TargetTrack tool.

For those who don’t know, Governor Romney won the Ames, Iowa straw poll last night. IE, he got his campaign message into the greatest number of hearts and minds of all those who took part in the poll.

NextStage routinely does analysis of how well the politicans are getting their messages across. Our tools correctly predicted the outcomes of the 2004 Primaries and Presidential Election months ahead of others. Call us. We’re happy to talk about it.

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Nothing New Under the Sun (The Complete Humanic Search Engines Arc)

Note: this four part arc is presented here as a single post

Return of the Humanic Search Engine, Part 1

I seem to be encountering search engine material quite a bit lately. One item which caught my eye, “Guides Do the Steering” in the Jan 07 Omma, reminded of a conversation I had a few years back with some folks at Progress Software. The article mentions that the ChaCha search engine uses 15,000 “guides”. These guides are real people all over the US and are subject matter experts, or SMEs.

These SMEs will help people find what they’re really searching for. It made me think of what I wrote in another post, “It’s not a matter of information overload, it’s a matter of data mining at the personal relevance level — There’s a search engine tool I want to see.” The intersection of these consciousness streams is what flashed me back to that afternoon with Progress and why, once again, there’s nothing new under the sun. We’re going to be exploring this in a three part arc starting today. Stay tuned…

Return of the Humanic Search Engine, Part 2

Progress had invited NextStage to create a “success” metric. This metric could be used to determine which partner was going to be the most successful, which meant it could be used to predict a company’s likelihood of success, which meant it could be used to determine which companies it would be a good idea to partner with (for the record, NextStage picked “four for four” of the top economic performers in the Progress partner stable simply by analysing all the partner homepages using its TargetTrackTM tool. This is documented in Chapter 4 of Reading Virtual Minds).

During the conversations around creating that success metric, we talked about what Progress was doing to make itself more search-friendly. One thing they’d done was higher a bunch of “search experts” and by that I mean “people who really know how to search real well”. These weren’t SEO companies per se although some may have worked at search engine companies and optimizers at the time. What they were, more to the point, were people who were SMEs in how to search. They were hired by different companies to do two basic things.

Return of the Humanic Search Engine, Part 3

One, these SMEs were going to create kind-of-sort-of training material. This material was to be used by people wanting to search for things so they’d learn how to search properly. What?

Two, these SMEs were going to help Progress make their site more search-friendly by helping Progress redesign their site along the ways people wanted to search. (and by whose definition, that?)

My skepticism showed, I’m sure. For One, a tool is going to have either limited use or few users if substantial training is necessary in order to use it (something which was picked up in the Noisy Data thread). For Two, what’s in the parentheses has it all; whose definition of “the ways people want to search” are you going to use? What people? Which people?

Now ChaCha is bringing back SMEs to help people search.

Return of the Humanic Search Engine, Part 4

NextStage recognizes well over 5,000 cognitive, motivational/effective and behavioral personality types, ie, “different ways people do things”. This allows us to create very specific personae for our clients and to accurately understand behaviors and behavioral motivators for an incredibly large population.

One way to think of things is that there are three ChaCha SMEs for every NextStage personality type. That would be great.

But another way to think of it is ask “How many of NextStage’s 5,000 personality types are represented by ChaCha’s 15,000 SMEs?” or, more to the point, “How many different ways can ChaCha’s 15,000 SMEs search?”

I wish ChaCha the best in this and am rooting for them. I also worry that their 15,000 SMEs might be simply 14,997 other Progress SMEs “who really know how to search real well” but not necessarily the way I or others need something to be found.

In any case, there’s nothing new under the sun.

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