Brand McCain Is Back (And Beating Barack)

John McCain, the anti-pork maverick, is back.

Here's last week's Wall Street Journal profile for proof. The writer doesn't mince words:

If you thought that the senior senator from Arizona would ride off into the political sunset last November, inconsolable after losing his bid for the presidency, think again. He's over it. And he's as energized and spry as ever I've known him.

McCain's brand is about fighting the excesses of the political process and the corrupting forces that he believes weaken our country. His brand is characterized by Forward Motion: a potent, but elusive, force that attracts people to a person or a product. He is a fighter.

In some ways, his presidential campaign can be seen as a failed attempt at a brand extension that never made much sense in the first place.

After all, could a "maverick" ever really get as much done as president as he could as Senator?

For those of you who think this question is ridiculous, just compare John McCain's Twitter account to the White House's. Something important is happening.

Let's call it asymmetrical "webfare" -- where the smaller, focused, one-issue actor can run circles around the bigger player on the web.

That's right. The formerly technology-averse McCain has 1.1 million followers on Twitter --almost 300,000 more than the White House.

What's happening here?

It wasn't too long ago -- during the campaign -- that everyone, myself included, was talking about the incredible and historically unprecedented communication advantage Barack Obama and his internet-savvy team would have once he got to the White House, what with that impressive e-mail list, etc.

What happened?

Basically, I think the answer is this: new media can provide the small and the unbureaucratic with outsized marketing advantages, but this advantage doesn't translate to the established and already plugged-in or the top-heavy and protocol-centered.

In other words, the institutionality of the White House has killed the Obama new media advantage. Tradition, a pre-existing communications apparatus and the sheer scope of running a presidency is getting in the way.

Also, where the Internet and social networking is great for generating support for single-issue, single goal agendas with a definite end date (i.e., getting voter's out for a certain candidate on election day or defeating a particular piece of pork), it isn't nearly so good when there is no definite end date or such a huge slate of issues and responsibilities that nothing stays in the crosshairs for long.

It also doesn't help when you've got the DNC making clunky Web videos for your legislative goals (It's hard to imagine something less effective than the DNC spot for health care on the Obama Web page)

That is why the Barack Obama new media campaign has not become the new media White House.

But for a permanent outsider like John McCain -- who doesn't need to worry too much about dotting every rhetorical "i" and crossing every diplomatic "t" -- Twitter and whatever other new media comes along will become a major tool in promoting his brand.

It is, as the Senator said, "a phenomenal way of communicating."  Especially for a brand that is true to itself and knows the essentials of real marketing like McCain clearly does.

And remember, business and the business of politics is always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.

John Tantillo is the Marketing and Branding Expert/Found and President, of the Marketing Department of America.

John Tantillo is branding editor for Fridge Magazine, the magazine for small business owners and entrepreneurs. He is the author of "People Buy Brands, Not Companies."