Business Lesson of Election '08: It's the Vision, Not the Economy.

By Jack Myers Jack Myers ThinkTank Archives

Whatever your personal political preferences, the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States reaffirms the hope inherent in the American Dream and provides every corporate executive with a new set of guiding principles for managing in 2009 and beyond. We should not get swept up in press reports that the Obama and Democratic victories were the result of the economic downturn. Without an effective Obama campaign focus on vision and hope for the future, accompanied by a brilliant use of new media to connect emotionally with voters, the election would have been far closer and McCain probably would have won.

While President-elect Obama must focus on solving our economic problems, he cannot lose sight that his greatest mission will be to define a vision for America's future and assure the hope he has instilled remains alive. Corporations also cannot afford to remain focused on Wall Street. A continuation of the current emphasis on Investor Relations completely misses the point of this election. Corporations cannot afford to miss the greatest opportunity they have to extract themselves from their current morass by adhering to the principles apparent in the Obama campaign. This election was about hope and vision for the future. It was about acknowledging the challenges ahead but refusing to remain locked in outdated patterns and relationships.

For too long, corporate policies and business models have been driven by lawyers, accountants and Wall Street's quarterly performance demands. In an industry with compressing traditional revenue models and the need to make visionary investments with limited short-term payout, the next two years should not be about driving stock prices up. They should be about emerging from the current economic downturn with intact business models that drive long-term growth.

No matter what media companies achieve in the next few months, short of radical cost-cutting that eats into the corporate bone, they will not be rewarded with increased shareholder value. Media companies are paying the price for years of neglecting the need to build new business models for the future… models that transcend traditional supply-demand buy-sell business constructs. For more than two decades I have been shouting as loud as I could in daily commentaries, books and speeches that the future would require completely new business models. I have urged companies to refocus their efforts away from transactional business models dependent on media buyers and fragmenting advertising budgets.

I have argued against the negative sell – TV network against network; magazine against magazine; broadcast against cable; radio against newspaper. If this week's election has taught us anything it should be that traditional ways of doing anything simply are not applicable in the new environment of the 21st Century. I have offered solutions; focused on new economic models; explained the importance of media brand-building; created new models for asset development; shared detailed vision for targeting sales promotion, event and database budgets. I have urged companies to reinvent their client relationships with a focus on investing rather than buying and selling. I have developed new research strategies developed around the idea that Emotional Connections will be rewarded while mass reach will be commoditized. I urged executives to re-envision their companies as players in The Relationship Age rather than the mass media Industrial Age economy.

For many companies, it's now too late to learn, just as it was too late for the Republican Party and the McCain advisors who so egregiously misread the national and global psyche. In my 1998 book Reconnecting with Customers, I wrote:

"I believe the most important objectives for businesses today are to manage their changing environment by having a clear vision for the future and by building stronger relationships with their customers.'

The Obama campaign was brilliant in its vision and message of hope, and in its embrace of new media to connect with voters, building stronger emotional relationships. While business executives may think they have built stronger relationships with their customers and with their audiences, they have not. They remain locked into outdated paradigms. As I wrote in 1998:

"Change is volcanic. Volcanoes lull those nearby into a false sense of security. Their constant rumblings and small, uneventful eruptions convince those living nearby that they can manage and survive. But there is no security. When the top blows and the lava flows, everything it touches is either destroyed or changed forever."

The Presidential Election of 2008 has been a volcanic event. Our nation and world have been changed forever. If you do not believe your business is about to be destroyed or changed forever by the events of the next two years, you are dangerously mistaken. You can play by the established rules or take advantage of the opportunities this economic downturn is creating and adapt quickly to the future. The solutions are not, however, apparent in economic models, on Wall Street, on Madison Avenue or in Silicon Valley. Your future depends on your vision and your ability to define it, share it, communicate it and offer hope to those who you can motivate to join you on your mission.

Jack Myers Media Futurist: For more than two decades, Jack Myers has been the media industry's leading analyst, researcher and advisor on relationships among marketers, agencies and media sellers, providing business development services and custom insights on relationship best practices to more than 200 marketers, agencies, media companies and industry service providers. Jack can be reached at jm@jackmyers.com.

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