Now that the Obama administration has gotten its first stimulus package through Congress, it needs to consider how to generate public support and lay the groundwork for its programs.
As a financial services marketer for more than 25 years, my experience suggests that the government needs to apply some basic marketing tactics.
First, don't call it a stimulus plan. No one knows what that means, and "stimulus" isn't very emotionally — well, stimulating. In effect, the measure contains several benefits that need to be spelled out quite precisely. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see in my business. The product has too many bells and whistles, and no one understands exactly what it does.
Name each part of the plan as a separate benefit. This isn't one new measure. It's at least four, with more to come. By teasing out each benefit through their very names, the administration gets credit for passing four popular measures in the space of a few weeks: the 2009 Tax Relief Act, the Jobs Creation Act, the Rebuild America's Roads and Bridges Act, and the Restart our Economy Act.
Focus on one benefit for the end user. "Bank rescue plan" may appeal to bankers, but consumers would be more likely to buy a Get Money Moving Again or Let's Lend More plan.
One important note: the product needs to do what it says it is going to do. There's no surer way to create bad word of mouth for one's company — or administration — than by selling a benefit that turns out to be less than advertised.
And stop being so negative. Scare tactics may work in short bursts, but building a brand, or a recovery plan, requires an emotional connection with the end user. Calling something "the worst economic crisis in decades" is not a way to get money moving.
I've seen a lot of good products get ignored in the market by bad marketing, and we can't afford to let that happen now.