Democratic party leaders Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (l.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York.
(SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Immediately, the slogan “A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages” was ridiculed (primarily by the Right) for sounding like the advertising slogan of a national pizza chain “Better ingredients. Better Pizza. Papa John’s.”
Is the problem a perceived lack of originality? Not really. That’s a cheap shot that got traction in conservative media.
Or is the problem the use of a slogan for a political party as a means of clarifying direction and positioning? We shouldn’t be surprised, actually.
After decades of the cliché comparison of selling candidates like toothpaste, why do we still shake our heads in indignation when it is so blatantly done? It seems we prefer the assignment of branding to some things but not others.
We’re okay with toothpaste, fast food chains and resort destinations as acceptable brands to market. But we prefer not to think of politicians, political parties, religious groups, or causes as brands. Are they different somehow? Yes and no.
Politicians and political parties have names and graphic identities, unique attributes, target audiences, competitors, marketing strategies, reputations to manage and loyal customers (or voters) to cultivate and protect. So when they behave like Proctor & Gamble brands, why should be surprised, offended or disappointed?
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Political, religious or cause-related groups are merely employing what works in today’s media-saturated culture to punch their brand through the clutter of competing messages, all vying for the attention of every consumer. The average American is overwhelmed daily by tens of thousands of brand messages-some subtle (a logo, an icon), some not so subtle.
For example, to reach potential young terrorists, the ISIS brand used social media as an effective recruiting tool. To persuade millions of frustrated blue collar workers in battleground states, the Trump brand hammered away at “Make America Great Again.” To raise millions, televangelists use sophisticated media strategy and persuasive copy to promote their brand of ministry. The examples are endless.
But the reason we’re uncomfortable with branding practices in certain areas of our lives is that we instinctively know the power and limitations of brand marketing as consumers of media.
We know that a brand of toothpaste is different than a presidential candidate. And we know that a well-orchestrated marketing campaign for either one has the power of curtailing or halting an investigation of the facts.
We instinctively know the campaign isn’t fully disclosing everything…but through repetition and exposure, we become okay with that. One person’s brainwashing is another person’s enlightenment.
While we can acknowledge and even admire effective brand marketing in matters of governance, charity or religion, we must become far more discerning as consumers of it. We must challenge the positioning, the claims, and the promises.
Let the constituent, contributor, supporter, donor, follower, and voter beware.