The current US election cycle makes an interesting analogue for learning about brands and communication, because we get to see in a very short period of time a system with substantial advertising, quickly evolving candidate brands, and the ultimate measurement system, a public vote.
As an op-ed piece in the NY Times points out today, the outcome of the Iowa primaries a few days ago had little to do with the level of advertising spend. Mike Huckabee won the Republican vote over Mitt Romney, despite having been outspent 6 to 1 in TV advertising. John Edwards finished a close second despite being outspent 3 to 1 by the winner Barack Obama, and more than 2 to 1 by the third place finisher Hilary Clinton. The op-ed writers (political pollsters) conclude that advertising is less important than – wait for it – personal conversations: “we have to recognize the power of individuals to influence one another.”
The writers make it sound like this is some huge discovery, which is kind of amusing. Someone should send them a copy of Herd. Still, if anyone is struggling with clients who still default to heavy TV spending it makes a nice soundbite for your next media planning discussion.