All week long, the Republican National Committee was playing a wild card close to its Brooks Bros. vest: There would be a surprise guest speaker at its 2012 convention in Tampa. In the ensuing hours leading up to the promised event, the news leaked that the speaker would be the former one-term mayor of Carmel, California.
Which, you know, would have been a letdown but for the fact that the small-time politician in question was big-time actor/director Clint Eastwood.
In an arena full of delegates already frothing with delight at the prospect of officially anointing Mitt Romney as their candidate for the White House, Eastwood could have given a rambling, incoherent address in which he spoke to an empty chair and repeatedly hinted at an off-color suggestion, and still have the crowd eating out of his hand.
Which, you know, he did.
Nonetheless, from a marketing standpoint, the whole affair kicked ass and inspired names. A Twitter account created by someone calling him/herself Invisible Obama had more than 46,000 followers by 1 p.m. ET today. And “Eastwooding” — the online posting of photos in which the photographer points a finger at an empty chair — became the latest social-media phenomenon.
How did Clint go viral? If one didn’t know better, one might think the RNC studied and implemented Mike Yapp’s 10 Best Interactive Marketing Practices.
1. Multimedia. TV, print and web outlets jumped on this story like Clyde the orangutan on Philo Beddoe. The “Twitterverse,” the “Facebook Nation,” the “Tumblr? I Hardly Know Her! Posse,” et al. spontaneously combusted. Smartphones set to vibrate had buttocks a-tingling all over the globe.
2: Opt-in. Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Whig, Bull Moose, or The Rent is Too Damn High Party, you opted in, whether in real time or after the fact. I was in a bar when it was happening — TVs on, sound off, jukebox blaring. “WTF is Clint doing, talking to a chair? I must know immediately!”
3. Personalization. The RNC hit the bull’s eye on its white, affluent male target, and probably pulled in conservative female AARP cardholders. But it also scored an unexpected win with a broad, younger demographic that saw in Eastwood qualities akin to those of their gruff, slightly dotty grandpas.
4. Tell a Story. Clint said he cried like Oprah and millions of others when Obama gave his 2008 victory speech, but subsequently cried even harder when he “found out that there are 23 million unemployed people in this country.” This is where the politician in Eastwood emerged, because it sent a powerful message rooted in false data, a.k.a. propaganda. Based on the real numbers, he overstated the unemployment problem by anywhere from 33 to 44 percent.
5: Include a Compelling Offer. This came from the empty chair, which apparently told both Romney and Eastwood to go fuck themselves.
6. Make it Immersive. Again, TV, Twitter, Facebook, the blogosphere. Add on YouTube and any number of news and comedy portals, and you could take a nice long bubble bath in the oversize claw-foot tub that is the Clint Convention Experience.
7. Usability. The speech provided practically limitless fodder for any and every type of media. Will Crazy Clint have the legs of a Chuck Norris or Ryan “Hey, Girl” Gosling? Doubtful, but time will most certainly tell.
8. Effective ROI. Off the charts, both intended and unintended.
9. Reshaping the Brand. This is the one area in which the RNC failed; rather, they reaffirmed themselves as the party of old, rich white guys with a loose collective grip on reality.
10. Send to a friend, viral sharing. Again, off the charts. In fact, I’m probably snapping a pic of myself pointing at an empty chair and posting it on Facebook as you read this. And following it up with the photo meme posted on Twitter by the Obama campaign shortly after Clint’s speech, with the heading: “This seat’s taken.”