Friday, October 10, 2008

An object lesson in the danger of brand simplicity

Watching the latest political season I asked some friends how the heck could the conservative movement start with a guy like Buckley and lead to Palin.

Consider for yourself:

Did you watch both? How the heck did this happen.

David Brooks has a great editorial in today's NYT opinion page explaining the obvious decline, its origins, and its ramifications.

And to me it has direct implications on how all public communications professionals need to think and re-think our choices.

First, simple messages that ask our audience to think very little may have short term benefits but long-term negative consequences. Primarily because when we put things in stark terms that depend upon negative factors (hate, fear, derision, resentment) we exit the arena of ideas for the arena of emotion. Now, many brand theorists today say it is emotion that drives choice and I agree but when the emotion is devoid of an idea than it is simply adrenaline and eventually it will wear out. The idea behind the emotion matters. When Buckley threatened to punch Chomsky in the nose it was because he had an ideological gripe with him. It wasn't because Chomsky simply represented a handle (e.g. "The Media Elite").

Second, simply stated, complexity counts. When we ask our audience to stop thinking then they will and that is dangerous. Even more dangerous we ask only those that don't want to think to be part of our conversation. This leads to the loop of noise I wrote about earlier and in an age of consumer co-creation how dangerous is it to risk relationship for the sake of delusional addiction?

Today's economic news indicates what is bred when emotions are developed devoid of ideas. The market psychology is panic. In the short term it was fun for people to use their homes as ATMs on their lawn but the long-term consequential melt-down stops the party.

Communications needs to consider the arena of ideas and long-term consequence if it is to breed the kind of passionate loyalty the fledgling conservative movement once had.

If not, then we risk brands with Palinesque depth and I don't think many consumers will want to dive headfirst into a pool that shallow.

1 comment:

GPAuntieMame said...

Interesting thoughts to be pondered a little longer. This blog is great. A lot to digest. The NYT editorial makes some good points. My initial response though is that those changes are why there is a rise in independent or should I say non-partisan thinking. Your points about asking the audience to think very little and to choose emotionally without adherence to a believed ideaology has given rise to distrust and a separation from both parties. I see very little difference between the parties. By stating that I am an independent I have the freedom to distance myself from party allegiance which demands strict obendience to everything on their platform. It demands not questioning decisions or policies made by the party. It demands disliking everything in theopposition party just because. Then emotion does take over and people vote up or down based on ridiculous things like the style of hair or the color of tie. Recently a group that I belonged to sent 20 lbs. of literature to our president (multiply that by hundreds of branches throughout the country) to demand that we hand out these slick booklets to our membership and the public to tell them that they have to vote a certain way. Even the members who agreed with the people and policies that we were told to vote for objected to the fact that an organization of university women who have fought for equity and independence for women for over 125years could demand that everyone vote the way they were told. How offensive to be told that we can't think for ourselves and sort out the issues without dictate. My thought is that when you get rid of partisan "noise" you begin to think more critically about the issues and candidates. It frees your mind to be more thoughtful and more mindful of the long term consequences of voting for or against a candidate or issue. More on the other topics or this one when I have time to "think critically"