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  • Writer's pictureKaren Young

Bad marketing strategy for Biden: death by laundry list

Updated: Feb 12

Welcome to Message Monday!

It’s common knowledge these days that President Biden is failing to communicate the real achievements of his administration to voters.   I give you an example of an ad that shows why he is not getting through, and some suggestions for how one could create ads that would perform better.  (This was not an official campaign ad, but I've seen similar ads that did come from the campaign.)


FYI, I don’t own an ad agency or a consulting firm, but in the course of my radio career I did create and sell advertising, work in marketing more generally, teach marketing, and also spent time in the print industry, working for a company that handled advertising for many major American companies.  Plus I have always been fascinated with advertising and how it works.


But hey, you don’t have to trust me.  Test your ads with real people and see how they work. 


Death By Laundry List


The left has always been known for putting people to sleep with their long lists of important issues or policy ideas.  Trust me, this has never worked to persuade anyone, or even get them to remember anything at all.


Recently I saw a post from A Better Wisconsin Together, touting things President Biden has done for Wisconsin.  I don’t have personal knowledge of this group, but they say they are “a Wisconsin-based research and communications hub for progressives.”  Let’s have a look.


“Investing In Our Communities”


Here’s a laundry list of five ways the Inflation Reduction Act is “investing in our communities.” 

- First, five is too many.  You’d be much better off doing a series of five ads, each focused on one achievement. Speak to one person at a time.

- Second, the descriptions are so vague that they are completely meaningless.

- Third, I have no idea what the last sentence means or why it’s there.  Who are “our leaders”?  What are they doing vis a vis investing in the 1% that I should want them to stop?  Why are you taking me off on a tangent rather than leaving me with a warm fuzzy feeling and an action item about Joe Biden? 

I understand this is from a Wisconsin group, but that third sentence has no business being in the same piece as the IRA stuff. I'd love to see an ad about how WI needs to tax the rich and deep six the GOP tax plan, but this is not the time or place.

“Investing In Our Communities” 2.0

A better headline:

“Joe Biden:  Fighting Drug Companies, Saving Money For Us”

Let’s focus this ad on one item:  “Lowering prescription drug costs.”*

Show a senior woman saying, “I was paying $77 per month out of pocket for insulin for my diabetes.  President Biden got my cost down to $35.  That’s less than half what I was paying!” Maybe show her with a cute doll she bought for her grandchild with the savings. 

Then show a young guy saying, “After President Biden forced the drug companies to cut insulin prices for seniors on Medicare, they cut prices for me too.  My insulin went down from $660 a month to $35.  It’s a lifesaver.  I got sick before because I had to ration my meds.  Not any more!”  Then his mom says, “I don’t have to worry about my son anymore.”

Then say:

Joe Biden isn’t done yet.  He wants to do so much more to get these drug companies in line and cut costs for all of us.  But he needs your help to do that.  He really needs everyone in Wisconsin to turn out and help him win, just like we did in 2020.



Now, it can be hard to get useful information out of the government press releases. So poorly written!  You’re more likely to find it in the news.  Also, a lot of the benefits are far off in the future.  It won’t do much good to advertise them now. 

For people who want to learn how it's done, I also recommend reading the marketing classic of all time, Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind.  It was first released in 1981, and when I taught marketing with it, my students made fun of some of the old-time products that are mentioned.  But it’s a classic for a very good reason. 

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