Obama is Google, McCain is AOL and more detailed measurement is the Holy Grail

So I’ve read this morning that the US think that Barack Obama is more like Google, and that John McCain is more like AOL. So what does this say about these brands?

It’s good news for Obama, as Google is no young pretender to the throne. Some would say it is the throne. And what about AOL? Is it all traditional American heartland values? What we don’t realise over here is the strength of AOL in the US. AOL is the fourth largest website in the US, with 111 million unique users a month (thank you Comscore). Google is on 142 million – so it would win the online election, but on a time spent per site basis it’s fair to say AOL may be giving them a run for their money (can’t find the statistics on this one, but it’s not hard to imagine that people will spend more time on a content site than on a search engine). Does this mean Obama’s a dead cert?

Well here comes the science bit – I am a research person after all – the context of the online visit varies dramatically. Some work done by MSN, MEC Interaction and OTX Research earlier this year gives some great insights into what people do online and the times of day and moods that they are in when they do these things. All fairly obvious stuff, but it is increasingly obvious that as online usage diversifies and time spent online grows that traditional measurement metrics do not give the full picture. In fact unique user statistics barely give any picture at all, except the numbers of people through the front door. How much time they spend on a site, the route they take, the tasks they carry out and the level of engagement and interaction they have is not quantifiable on unique users and page impressions alone.

You could conclude then that it’s not all bad news for McCain (on this poll, possibly there is much worse news out there for him if the papers are anything to go by). Being compared to the 4th largest website online with a reach of 111 million is no bad thing. Further demographic and reach and frequency metrics would be needed to properly quantify the value of his 111 million versus the value of Obama’s 142 million. As anyone who has heard of JICIMS will testify, unique user numbers alone do not tell the whole story – it’s just the starting point. You need engagement measures and reach and frequency data to really know what the value of a unique user is. Interestingly McCain was also likened to Ford, whereas Obama was BMW. If you looked at things that way, the trusted American brand would be McCain, with Obama the more stylish – but expensive – foreigner.

Over to you blog readers – what brands would Gordon Brown and David Cameron be? All suggestions welcome, though I take no responsibility for the findings! And don’t try and pretend that you are far too busy to answer this, you’re reading this blog aren’t you?

  • Interesting thoughts, I’d think that the problem with Brown and Cameron is that they’re simply too old fashioned to be compared to any online media! I think the only reason this comparison has come around is the generational and transformational change promised by Obama is drawing comparison to the change from the industrial age to the digital age!
    It does surprise me how big AOL is in the states, but recent analysis of PPC on AOL actually shows lower CTR,
    So perhaps the AOL crowd just dont get it….
    Oh and AOL ran into problems with wikipedia…. lots of abuse… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:AOLA

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    The BBC is a superb British brand: trustworthy, competent and quietly getting on with moving forward very effectively in the digital world without a big hoohah. It is routinely abused by the hard-of-thinking and the red-tops. Completely underrated in the UK but a real reason why Britain continues to be respected throughout the world in spite of Blair/Bush shenanigans. Gordon Brown is the BBC.

    Cameron, of course, is vapourware. If you are daft enough to buy it, you’ll only discover that AFTER you’ve removed the shrinkwrap from the box and invalidated your rights under the Sale of Goods and Services Act.