National politics, especially presidential campaigns, have always been known for the showbiz, the posturing, and the finger pointing. While we enjoy the theatre that results, all the drama can serve to distract voters from the real issues at hand. The 2008 presidential campaign has gone one step further, with John McCain including a type of consumer loyalty program to encourage support of his candidacy.
As loyalty programs go, the “Spread the Word” program does not align well with best practices. For the non-enrolled who visit www.JohnMcCain.com for the first time, there is no hint of the rewards program. Only by searching the site to arrive at the Volunteer Action Center can you find details of Spread the Word, the essence of which is to earn points for posting scripted talking points about Mr. McCain on a list of recommended blogs.
There are no program rules posted and it is unclear how many points can be earned for various activities or what rewards are available. Only by reading an account of the program in the Washington Post did I learn that rewards would include such items as autographed books, preferred seating at events, and a ride on a campaign bus.
The web site instructs:
“Help spread the word about John McCain on news and blog sites…….Select from the numerous web, blog and news sites listed here, go there, and make your opinions supporting John McCain known……..After your comments are verified, you will be awarded points through the McCain Online Action Center”
The site does not elaborate on whether points may be earned for donating funds to the campaign, organizing events, or any other activities. It seems that seeding of positive comments in the blogosphere is the only activity deemed worthy of a reward.
There is an irony in all of this. As each campaign strives to promote transparency to the masses, at least one has decided to “pay for performance” of its volunteers. In the context of politics, aren’t loyalists supposed to be driven by their conviction of belief and their emotions? If that is the case, a recognition program which scored the cumulative contribution to the campaign by individual supporters would be more elegantly communicated without a point based system.
There are many ways to “keep score” in the background and offer valuable supporters their day in the sun through ego-driven participatory events. Recognition should be enough to motivate campaign supporters. Imagine if every supporter who posted one of the prescribed talking points to the range of blogs on the McCain site were forced to declare that “I received points for this post”. That simple disclosure illustrates the folly of points based rewards in this setting.
I’ll bet over the past year the McCain campaign hired enough consultants to fill a small stadium. Too bad they missed the Loyalty Marketing consultant!