October 4, 2009
The Obamas Violated First Three Rules of SellingBy C. Edmund Wright
Of course Barack and Michelle Obama failed in Copenhagen. Their strategy could not possibly succeed. In their academic arrogance, they thought they could sell a product they clearly do not believe in (the United States) and moreover, they could do so by stressing the benefits to the seller (Chicago) and not the buyer (the IOC). And to top it off, they committed the faux pas of talking too much about the sales force (themselves) and not about the product or the buyer.
Gee, what could possibly go wrong?
Anyone who has had to succeed in the real business world -- and that includes few if any on Team Obama -- instinctively knows that to get business done you have to believe in what you are doing and offer a product or service that is focused on the benefits to the customer. In the Obama World of Chicago pay-to-play power, business gets done by flexing muscle and clearing the field of your competitors. You don't have to sell anything. You don't have to believe in anything. It is fine to be self-focused. You simply have to apply the power of the applicable political machinery and you win.
Which could explain why the First Couple was so apparently lost in an attempt to actually have to make a sale to an audience not cowed by Chicago-style clout, inoculated by our own fawning Jurassic media, nor remotely interested in their life stories. Perhaps that is how and why they botched it so badly.
That is not to say that Chicago was a slam dunk in the first place. I have no way of knowing what their ultimate chances were. But the embarrassing first round knockout was a definitive rejection of both the Obamas and their approach. Their hearts were in selling the Obama brand, not U-S-A.
The Obamas' sales pitch was awful by any definition. Of course. How can our President, who has made his political fortune at the expense of the reputation of the country, sell our country to the IOC with a straight face?
The answer is he could not. And although it would have been an out of body experience, I still thought he would at least attempt to sell America and some notion of our logistical competence and love of sports and so on. I didn't think he would believe it, but certainly thought the teleprompter would sneak in something good about the country for him to read.
He and the First Lady did not even pretend to be proud of us. They went on an unseemly, surreal begging campaign that mixed in uncomfortable bits and pieces of their personal histories with platitudes about what the Olympic Games could do for the children of Chicago. Oh, BTW, the Obama family would personally find it kind of a cool thing for the neighborhood.
So ask not what our country can do for your Olympics -- ask what your Olympics can do for our city. Heck, that was the First Lady's closing argument:
That was how she ended her speech. That was her "please sign here" moment. For the record, her talk mentioned NOTHING about what we could offer the games. Not a word. No wonder they didn't sign on the dotted line.
Before that, some 40% of her speech was about her Dad and his M.S. Apparently the IOC didn't see the relevance. When she wasn't talking about her Dad, she was fantasizing about what a Chicago Olympiad would mean to her and the children of the city:
To which the IOC's answer was something like "get them ESPN and ESPN 2 if they need to be exposed to new sports and role models. And by the way, we're not so sure about that regardless of 'ability' concept either."
She was followed by the President -- who in all fairness did shelve some his blatantly anti-American sentiment for the time being -- but who also would only couch positive things about the nation in terms of diversity or Obama-ness.
That our experiment in democracy was hanging on by the thread of whether he won the election or not was the point, not to mention the point that the world was interested only because he was involved. But his stance that modern history started with his inauguration continued:
Well where do I sign? How can I possibly turn down an opportunity to make the 2016 Olympics so convenient for family Obama? After all, they are the family that has finally started -- in earnest -- the work of, well, whatever it is they are transforming in America.
When you consider these words in light of what Obama said about the United States last week at the U.N and the G20, it is clear to see that this is a man who really does think history started when he was born and America's greatness started when he was elected. These thoughts dominate any sober analysis of the written words of his speeches.
While our own Jurassic media is totally under his spell, the IOC and the much of the rest of the world media is not. They saw the Copenhagen sales pitch and rejected it out of hand. It came in fourth place out of four.
There is analysis out of the D.C.-Manhattan corridor already that the racists in the United States and the Republicans and talk radio and Fox News and the right leaning blogosphere are to blame for the Denmark disaster. They are not.
Neither is George Bush or Dick Cheney or even Donald Rumsfeld.
Elsewhere, there is talk that it was not-that-big-a-deal and that Chicago was done a favor by not getting the games. That may be true, but the Obama's and their Chicago buddies wanted it badly -- and thought they had it in the bag.
The bottom line is this: this was an Obama epic fail period. They were the sales force, they were the focus of the sales presentation and they were the product. The Obamas were there to sell the Obamas with the Obamas. All Obama all the time.
And the world said, "No thanks."