7 Billion People, a company that
provides insight and behavioral analysis for websites, announced results from a
linguistic analysis of the websites of Senators Obama and McCain. The analysis
reveals that the candidates’ websites take very different approaches in
communicating their messages to voters. Analysis of the language,
messaging, and information presentation on both candidates' websites yielded
telling information about the mindsets of the political strategists behind the
communications and how the candidates wish to be perceived during the race.
Are candidates potentially missing the opportunity to communicate effectively
to those with different communication preferences?
From the release: Obama’s website uses language that appeals to visitors
that are typically goal-driven, optimistic and feel affinity with others as
members of a group. It encourages social interaction and works best for those
looking for peer discussions and references. The behavior of the website
encourages access to many choices and options. In contrast, the McCain website
is geared towards visitors that are driven by risk and problem avoidance and who
primarily make decisions as individuals based upon “gut feel” and personal
choice. McCain’s site speaks best to those voters that are comfortable with
process and orderly information presentation.
Mark Nagaitis, CEO of 7 Billion People, said “This analysis demonstrates
how the design of a website and the use of language can influence the
effectiveness of that site in communicating the desired message. Too many web
designers underestimate the power of language in reaching the complete audience,
not just their base.” Key findings from the analysis include:
- The McCain website uses language that emphasizes risk and problem
avoidance - such as the section on the Homeownership Resurgence Plan
featured prominently on the home page during mid-October 2008 in the final
weeks before the presidential election.
- By comparison, the Obama website offers voters key language on hope and
opportunity as the primary focus, with risk items still present but
secondary in nature.
- Democratic candidate Barack Obama’s website is designed to appeal to
people that use peer opinions and other references in their decision-making
process. Obama’s website speaks to those that see themselves as part of a
group. (For example, the Obama Everywhere section on the home page includes
links to popular social networking sites).
- Conversely, rival John McCain’s website appeals to those people who make
decisions based on gut-feeling, information and personal choice. McCain’s
website primarily speaks to the individual, not the group.
- Senator McCain’s website presents information in a procedural,
step-by-step fashion that appeals to analytical voters that feel comfortable
with process and order – there is a clear path from the initial landing page
that features Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin to the center panel of
the website home page presenting topical videos denouncing his competitor.
McCain’s website may feel constrictive to some voters.
- By contrast, Senator Obama’s website appeals to voters that prefer
choice and exploration of all of the options available to them. The website
contains a wide array of menu items and clickable section headings
representing numerous choices for visitors that need to feel that they have
explored all the options - including a Learn menu section providing
backgrounds on the wives of Senators Obama and Biden, texting for campaign
updates, Obama Mobile for ringtones and an official iPhone application for
the Obama campaign. Obama may be missing the opportunity to talk to voters
that prefer order and process on the site.