Rebranding: The Last Refuge of Scoundrels

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In a speech to the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council on Tuesday, President Obama blamed Republicans for the failure of the PPACA…you know, the sweeping legislation the GOP was not even allowed into the conference room on, or even to read before its passage. Passage that, it bears noting, was facilitated by a complex and clandestine (though, sadly, totally legal) procedural shell game that allowed the Senate Democrats to pass the bill as a budgetary measure without actually passing an actual budget.

“What was already going to be hard was operating within a very difficult political environment and we should have anticipated that that would create a rockier rollout than if Democrats and Republicans were both invested in success,” Obama said.

“One of the problems we’ve had is one side of Capitol Hill is invested in failure and that makes, I think, the kind of iterative process of fixing glitches as they come up and fine-tuning the law more challenging,” he added.

That’s right, folks…the President actually had the balls to say that simply not wishing hard enough and believing in fairies caused the web site to fail.

But that isn’t even remotely the stupidest thing he said in his remarks, nosiree…

Once the problems with the website are resolved, the president said “we’re going to have to, obviously, remarket and rebrand, and that will be challenging in this political environment.”

Yes, people. The problem with Obamacare isn’t that it’s another uber-expensive, unprecedented takeover of an entire sector of our economy for the purposes of social engineering. It isn’t that the system is being run by the same morons who paid as much for a coffeemaker as I could for a decent used car. It isn’t that their meddling has caused both premiums and deductibles to skyrocket because the insurance companies now have no choice but to assume that all their customers are falling apart on the molecular level. No, no, it’s the BRANDING that’s the problem.

An example of "branding".

Let me tell you folks a little story from my childhood.

In 1985, America was locked deep in the trenches of the Cola Wars. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola was losing market share to the damn yankees at Pepsi. They needed a new strategy. A new weapon. A NEW COKE.

NOT PICTURED: The inscription on the can’s reverse, reading “Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.”

Coca-Cola took the formula that had worked just fine since 1929 and had made it the most popular soft drink in the world and tossed it out to start from scratch. Reactions were mixed. And by that, I mean “the public hated it with the burning fury of ten thousand colliding suns”.

Also in 1985: Route 66 decommissioned. Steve Jobs booted from Apple. Britny Fox forms. Coincidence, or conspiracy? You decide.
Also in 1985: Route 66 decommissioned. Steve Jobs booted from Apple. Britny Fox forms. Coincidence, or conspiracy? You decide.

Less than three months later, Coca-Cola furiously backtracked, reintroducing the original formula as “Coke Classic” and re-cementing its dominance. They kept selling New Coke until 1992 when they renamed it Coke II and it gradually disappeared into obscurity to the relieved sighs of a grateful nation.

What President Obama doesn’t understand is that rebranding this crap sandwich isn’t going to suddenly make it awesome. It’s not the brand that people are having problems with. It’s the web site that is still 30-40% incomplete that we are being forced to use to buy insurance we can no longer afford to cover illnesses it is physically impossible for us to ever have.

At the end of the day, no one at Coca-Cola was fired or demoted for the New Coke fiasco. Not because it wasn’t an incredibly bad decision to introduce the product…it most certainly was. But because they made the quick decision to put the brakes on as soon as they realized it wasn’t working, and reset their product to the way it was. If the Democrats don’t want to be chucked out on their asses next November, they would do well to learn from Coke’s example.


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