Let's talk about Sarah Palin and smart marketing.

I think the GOP campaign has committed a major blunder in the way it has gone about "packaging" Gov. Palin. This blunder was very evident in her interviews with Katy Couric and in her debate with Joe Biden.

It has to do with her lack of top level skills in foreign policy. She is obviously a quick study who has done massive amounts of homework on the subject in the few short weeks she has been on the campaign trail. But whether you like her or not, the fact remains that foreign policy is not her strong point.

In the last three decades, there have been four presidents who were governors before they ran for president. By the very nature of the job, a governor does not have a lot of foreign policy experience. It just isn't part of the job they do.

So what these four men have done when they were elected president, was to assemble teams of foreign polciy gurus on their staffs (no I will not get into a discussion about how good these teams were or what decisions they adviced their presidents to make).

No president comes into office with extensive skills in every area of the job. They have to rely on their staffs to help them and advise them.

But what Palin has done has been to make claims that because Alaska is very close to Russia, she has foreign policy experience. No wonder Tina Fey, David Letterman and Jay Leno have had so much fun at her expence.

What if, instead, she had just admitted that governors come along with other skills. What if she had cited Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush to point out that governors have experience as chief executives but not as foreign policy wonks?

By admitting her lack of foreign policy experience, she could have shifted much of the spotlight to her extensive energy experience and to the fact that she is the only person among these four candidates who has ever been a chief executive.

Dan Kennedy, one of the greatest copywriters alive today, even goes so far as to look for flaws, faults and limitations in the products he sells. When he finds them, he highlights them, shouts about them from the roof tops and makes sure his readers know he is not claiming that his product will be all things to all people.

And in so doing, he positions the product so he can talk about its strengths. When a marketer freely admits that her product has a flaw, don't we then "listen up" to find out what the good points about it are?

No one will ever believe a marketer who claims his or her product does everything better than any other product anyway. But a curious thing happens when we admit a flaw. Buyers start paying close attention to the message to find out what the good things are.

Admitting limitations puts more of a focus on the benefits you do claim. And doing this gives you much more credibility in the process.

If you refuse to do this, you may - just may - find yourself being paradied on Saturday Night Live.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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