What the GEICO Gecko Could Teach Our Politicians

Author: Linda J. Popky

As we hit October, we’re in that stage where most people have had more than enough of presidential politics. Yet amidst all the TV ads, news stories, phone calls and those incessant polls, there’s one thing we haven’t seen enough of. It’s something I call the Gecko Factor.

For the last 12 to 18 months, we’ve been subjected to an ever increasing volume of messages about the candidates’ views, their proposals and platforms. The goal, obviously, is to make us choose one candidate over the other.

What we haven’t seen much of, however, is a strong message that makes us identify in a powerful, positive way with either candidate. Instead, we hear more about what’s wrong with the other side and what we have to fear if that candidates wins.

Fear, uncertainty and doubt have been part of the traditional tools used to sell products and services. Insurance, for example, was traditionally sold by making people worry what would happen if they die, were in a car accident or got seriously ill. This is a product that most of us hope never to use but we’re convinced to buy it anyway.

Today, however, even insurance is promoted with a positive, fun message. The GEICO Gecko tells us in 15 minutes we’ll save big on car insurance. Flo from Progressive is so chipper about her sleek ultra-modern insurance store it makes us wonder what she’s indulging in off camera.

In fact, the entire industry, from the State Farm “Good Neighbor” agents to the Nationwide super spokesman to that annoying AFLAC duck, are spinning a positive message to consumers. And while many of these ads talk about saving money, no one tells you the horrible misfortunes you’ll suffer if you forego buying insurance or, just importantly, what terrible things will happen if you mistakenly choose the competition.

Compare this to political advertising. We hear all about what’s wrong with the other guy. We learn about what terrible calamities could befall our economic system, Medicare, and even the American way of life if we make the wrong decision. Mitt Romney has recently grabbed headlines with his comment about 47% of the population not paying their fair share of income taxes. Not the best way to win friends and influence votes, some of which will need to come from this same group of people.

Four years ago, the Obama campaign rode the theme “Change We Can Believe In” to the White House. The McCain campaign, on the other hand, changed messages regularly throughout the campaign, without focusing on one consistent theme.

This year, neither side has developed a powerful, positive message that resonates with the voters. Obama’s slogan is simply “Forward.” Huh? That doesn’t have the same positive ring as “Change We Can Believe In.” Romney, though, doesn’t seem to have a slogan, at least not one I could find. From both sides we have negative images, mudslinging and too much fear, uncertainty and doubt.

It’s unlikely we’ll change politics but there are clear lessons for us in business:

  • Don’t knock the competition: Focus on the value you bring with your product or service.
  • Consistency wins: Find your position and stick with it.
  • Stand for something: Make sure your audience knows what you stand for.
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition: It takes multiple exposures for any message to sink in, so tell your story again and again.

It’s really quite straightforward. Think positive. If you don’t believe me, take 15 minutes and ask the gecko.

Need a Speaker? Please see our Leverage2Market® series.
  • Upcoming Events

  • What’s New

    Article: It's All About the Message: Lessons from This Week's Midterm Elections. Linda Popky analyzes the mid-term election results on Commpro.

    Podcast: "We Built This City" - Linda Popky shares stories about her 40+ years in tech marketing in Silicon Valley. She says, "Don't ever listen to somebody who tells you you can't do something." - Listen!

    Podcast: Interview of Linda Popky about Using Friction to Improve Your Marketing by Gene Hammett on Leaders in the Trenches.

    SAC® Press Release: "Never An Afterthought: Pricing Is Strategic to Business Success" – Read release.

    Podcast: Linda Popky interviews Lisa Nirell who shares insights in marketing innovation from her six years of surveying CMOs globally. - Listen.


    Take our Marketing Above the Noise Assessment.

    Video: Just a Moment for Marketing: Can You Have Not Enough Friction? Creative disagreement leads to new ideas and improvements. – View the video.

    NEW eBOOK: Top of Mind: 101 Insights to Transform Your Business
    Purchase PDF or ePub book.
    Top of Mind

    Book Video Trailer How can your message be heard in today's crowded, chaotic environment? Learn more about Linda Popky's new book, Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters, in this short video trailer.

    Harvard Business Review: "Identify the Marketing Metrics That Actually Matter" by Linda J. Popky - Read article

  • Read Our Blog

  • Subscribe to the Top of Mind Thursday Newsletter

    Free articles download with sign up
  • Marketing Above the Noise

    Introducing Dynamic Market Leverage™, an approach to help cut through the clutter, stand out, and effectively build business.

    Marketing Above The Noise

    What's Inside Available in Hardcover and eBook formats