Branding politics

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Steve Yastrow on the Tom Peters blog highlights this US News article on Yahoo: Kerry’s muddled message. Here’s Steve’s take:

Those who support John Kerry are frustrated with his campaign and those that support Bush are elated with Kerry’s campaign. This article describes, essentially, how Kerry’s brand is muddled through a series of disjointed, dissonant messages, while GWB’s messages are much more in sync.

Irony … in 1992 Clinton crafted a very clear brand while Bush the elder couldn’t weave together a clear and compelling story.

I get that Kerry is not doing too well at the moment, but there’s something about this way of talking about politics that I find troubling. Partly, I distrust the narrative which emphasises the role of the candidate in creating the “compelling story”; I’m not sure it’s really in their power, I suspect it’s a more chaotic process. Second, I just don’t like the ideas of branding applied to politics, the assumption that the message must be simplistic to work, as if the population is not capable of nuance. This way of talking about politics depresses me. It reduces it to a business game and seems to get away from focussing on what we actually believe in favour of what, allegedly, “works”.

So the irrepressible Hugh Macleod weighs in with

Kerry should learn about Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s.

Kroc’s big credo was what is still referred by the company as “QSCV” i.e. Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value.

Obviously, if you’re the service business (and Kerry is, let’s not forget), you don’t need “cleanliness” the way a restaurant needs it.

So you replace it with “Clarity”, the mental equivalent of cleanliness. Bingo!

Kerry lacks clarity.

Politics as McDonalds. Governance as business. Well, that’s one way of talking about it but not one that energises me. And whatever may be wrong with Kerry’s campaign, I hope to god he doesn’t look for a McAnswer to the question.

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