"Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of "
ticky-tacky And they all look just the same."
Ah, Bush world. We're going to talk about asserting your brand. What about branding? Tools for Activism here in just a moment.
Segment that is referred to during the NLP lesson
First, Elaine in Humboldt county has been patiently waiting on the phone. ... "And I have one other thing, in regard to the Bush Administration, and I mean the whole administration plus him, I'm getting to where when I think of them, I think of them as a mafia godfather." Yeah.
"Along with Hitler. What Hitler did to the people in the early 30s. People ought to look up history and read." Yeah. "It's terrible, and it's really down to us." Well, the anniversary, the anniversary is coming, Elaine, and I'll be, I'll be reprinting the piece that I, that I did a couple of years ago called "When democracy failed" about that, I believe it's the 23rd of February [27th - ed.] is the day that in 1933 was it, or 34? [1933 - ed.] "I believe that it was 33." 33 that the Reichstagsgebäude was burned by Marinus van der Lubbe and, and Hitler stood in front of it with a microphone, he called the media together and stood in front of the smoldering building and, and called it a "sign from God" and declared a war on terrorism and within, within, within a month he had passed the laws for the protection of patriotic Germans which was, which allowed them to wiretap telephones, to open people's mail, it was basically the Patriot Act of 1933. "Great." And, and, and within a year he was, he was in, in, you know, into a war. I mean it was just, you know, invading, of course, Austria, you know, taking the, and then the Sudetenland, and on, on it went. "Right." I mean, the parallels although you also have to be a little, you have to be a little careful, because Hitler, Hitler was, you know, not only was he a fascist and not only did he use the same tools that Bush is using, but he was also a mass murderer, and, you know, within his own country, and Bush has not gone that far, and I don't expect him to. But, but the, but the parallels of the rise of power. "No, but what he's done in Iraq, he's got blood on his hands, same as bin Laden." Yeah. I don't disagree with you. You know, I'm... "It's terrible, and we haven't seen anything yet." Yeah. "So, thank you." And in fact, thank you, Elaine, I appreciate the call. In fact, somebody in our, our chat room said, "OK, tax dollars, it's my money, I, give me back my portion of the war in Iraq and I'll invest it in the stock market and you can just have your war, George. Yeah.
Well, here's, talking about branding. In, in marketing and advertising, see, well, let me, let me start at the beginning here. Here's where the Republicans and the Democrats have differed over the last 20 years or so. And there, and that is that the Republicans have been using this masterfully, as an art form, whereas the Democrats have been missing the boat. Now, it's kind of funny, because it was Woodrow Wilson, back in the 19 teens who was the first president to really effectively and intentionally use mass media public relations to market our involvement in World War One. But the Democrats seem to have forgotten how to do that, Progressives and whatnot. And the Republicans have gotten very, very good at it, and they've taken it up through the third level. Now what are these 3 levels? There are, there are, whenever you want to promote something, whenever you want to sell something, whenever you want to convince people that, you know, they need to buy your product or they need to join your cause or, you know, whatever it may be. There are 3 pieces to it.
The first piece is what is referred to in marketing parlance as the features. Now, let me take this out of politics for a moment so that you can get it in a very abstract way. Let's say we're talking about a widget. And you say, "OK, I've got this widget, and the old widget was a 16 digit widget, this widget has 32 digits. It's a 32-digit widget. Twice as many digits as the old one widget." Those are, that's a feature. Twice as many digits. The second step, well, before I get to that. So the problem with that feature, with just looking at that feature, is that people say, "So what? So it's got twice as many digits. Why should it, why should it matter to me? Why should I care? So what?" Twice as many digits. Because features without a larger context are irrelevant.
On the other hand, what if I came along to you and I said - now, you don't know that my widget has twice as many digits now - starting the conversation all over again from scratch, came along and I said, "Hey, we've got this new widget, and with this widget you can widget twice as fast as you could with your old widget. In fact, you can get so much widgeting done you'll be able to go home every day at 3 o'clock and take Fridays off." That's a benefit. That's the second step, a benefit. That's, benefits are the 'what's in it for me?' and you may say, "Oh, come on, I've been widgeting for years, I know how fast my widget can widget, I know how fast I can widget on this widget, I don't believe you! What are you talking about, leave work every day at 3 and take Fridays off? I don't, I don't believe it. It's not possible." Because benefits statements without features lack credibility. So now we combine the two. Now I come to you and I say, "I've got a 32-digit widget. Because it's got twice as many widgets [sic] as the old widget, the old 16-digit widget, it can widgets twice as fast, and you can get, you know, and therefore you can get your widgeting done in half the time and a lot of our customers have been able to get all their work done by three and even take Fridays off".
And now my features are establishing credibility for my benefits statement and my benefits are establishing relevance for the features. Got that? So, for example, with a political campaign, Bush is trying to roll out his Social Security thing and he hasn't yet talked about the features, in fact they're secret. He's only talking about the benefits, and I think it's one of the reasons why there's so little credibility, so few people believe him, because he's only talking about the benefits. He's saying, this will, this will allow people to have more money in their old age, basically. I mean, that's basically the message, and this will avoid a disaster. And when he tries to talk about the features, about the disaster, that Social Security's heading for a train wreck, turns out that they're wrong, and he's been outed as not being a truth teller. But in any case, he hasn't yet combined the two, and I suspect that he's not going to be able to successfully do that. But that's a, that's a whole 'nother discussion.
The same thing with the war in Iraq when they marketed the war in Iraq. The feature was, 'Saddam has weapons of mass destruction'. The benefit was, and, and he's tied into al Qaeda, the benefit was 'if we take him out we'll be safe'. You have to have both. Now Demo... now here's where, now here's where it gets to the third level. This is where it gets even deeper than just features and benefits, cos features and benefits, this is like advertising 101.
But the third level, the deepest level, or the highest level, depending on how you, what metaphor you want to use, is one of identity. Branding. See, if the first question, if the features question is "what, what is it that this program or product is?" And the benefits question is "what's in it for me in this program or product?" Then the third question, the identity question, the branding question is "Who am I when I use this service, this feature, this product, this program? Who am I, in this context?"
And this is what the Cons have done absolutely brilliantly, starting about 20 years ago. They started not only branding the word 'Conservative' as meaning something noble and, and positive, but they also started branding the word 'liberal' as meaning something negative and terrible much the same way as, to use Elaine's example, much the same way as Hitler did when he, when he started branding the Jews on one hand, and communists and socialists and trade unionists, but particularly the Jews in Germany, and on the other hand started attaching a positive brand to what he called national socialism. So, the "Who am I when I do this?" This is the, this is the question. This is the question that must be answered.
And this is where the Democrats, the progressives, the liberals have, up to this point, failed to effectively establish that brand identity. You know when somebody, you know, Marlborough, for example. They don't say, "Hey! It's great tobacco." You know, it's, it's, "it's got 27 different chemicals in it." You know, they don't talk about the features. They don't even talk so much about the benefits any more. I mean it used be when I was a kid I remember tobacco advertising, I remember seeing Ronald Reagan on TV wearing a white jacket, you know, playing a doctor, and saying "Pall Malls, you know, if you have a sore throat smoke Pall Malls. There, they'll, there, they soothe your throat", or words to those effect. Back when Ronald Reagan was a paid, you know, TV ad guy, and I was a little kid. And so they were selling features and benefits. and then the tobacco companies got smart and they said, "you know, there's really not much benefit to smoking, and there's no, there's no real features, but we can create identity." So, and where, when this first rollout, there's two big rollouts on this were 'the Marlborough man' and 'you've come a long way, babe'.
And what Conservatives have done successfully is they have established this sense of identity and what happens is, when you have a sense of identity, "Oh, this is my tribe, I'm a member of this tribe." Then what happens is, there's a filtering process, a filter fits over consciousness and we start looking for information, listening for information, trying to get a sense of information that will validate our world view because it's our identity now. And we start discarding information that doesn't validate our world view. It's why in the last hour, when I was having that conversation with Mike in Indianapolis and I, and I would point out facts to him and he would say, "eh", basically, "don't confuse me with the facts". Why? Because his sense of identity was being challenged. This is one of the reasons it's so difficult to argue politics or religion with people, or for that matter, to discuss things like, you know, family. You know, the old jokes about, you know, talking about your mother-in-law kind of thing. I mean, because that's identity. "That's who I am. This is my family. This is my church, my synagogue. These are my people. This is my..."
You know, that, there's that sense, and, and what the Republicans have done, they have created, a strong sense of "this is my political party". And the Democrats have not. At least, in the last 15, 20 years they have not. And I would say to a large extent they have not because of the, the DLC policies that Bill Clinton pioneered of getting in bed with corporations and leaving behind the traditional democratic constituency, which was the average working guy and, and gal. And, you know, you could argue, probably correctly, that in the eighties, and even in the early nineties, that that's basically, if the Democrats wanted to survive, what they had to do because the Republicans had figured out how to get all this money from corporations and that's where the money was. And ever since Ronald Reagan declared war on organized labor we went from a 25% of the American workforce being unionized, so they were, you know, and the unions had political power and they had money that they could give to politicians. They could participate in political campaigns, down to now when unionization is, is very low. It's 8, 9% of the private workforce. This not only is, is a tragedy for the average working person in America, but it also was an erosion of the base of, of financial support for the Democratic party. So, so, Clinton and these guys came along and they said, "Well, let's, let's go to the corporations and say, 'hey! we'll, we'll cut a deal with you'. You know, we'll sell our souls to the devil. We'll be a little more corporate friendly. We're going to be, we're going to still talk about social justice and we're still going to talk about the forests and the trees and things, and the environment and you may not like what we do all the time but give us some of your money, OK?" And some corporations went along. But increasingly now, over the last 6, 8 years, you're finding corporations that are simply contributing 100% of their money to the Republicans. Period. Just, just doing it, cos they know that's where, that's the side that their bread is buttered on.
So the Democrats, progressives and liberals need to be building a sense of tribe. And that sense of tribe needs to be grounded in the features and benefits of we want to live in a world that is safe, we want to live in a world that is compassionate, that is understanding, that is educated, that is insightful and this is our tribe. Ten minutes before the hour. ...
... You see, LBJ, for all his failures and faults in Vietnam, with the Great Society program understood branding. "We are going to follow the precepts of traditional Christianity and Judaism, we are going to care for the least among us." Martin Luther King understood branding. Franklin Roosevelt understood branding. Whether it was the Great Society, civil rights movement, the New Deal. Teddy Roosevelt understood branding. He called it the Square Deal. Thomas Jefferson understood branding. He called it the United States of America.
1-866-889-8894 our telephone number, Jim in Grand Rapids, Michigan on the line. Hey Jim, what's up? "Hi Thom, privilege to talk to you." Thank you. "And I think you've had some good points here, but I keep coming back to one question." Yes, sir. "Despite all of what you say about what the Democrats need to do, the Democrats won in '04. The Democrats won in '00." Yeah, in other words the machines were rigged, or the elections were rigged, or you had, you had, yeah. "Yeah, these are all good talking points and yeah, everybody needs to use those kinds of things you're talking about." Yeah. No, I'm, I'm, I'm not disagreeing with you at all, until. "But the Democrats, how can you say they did something wrong? They did something right. They won." I didn't, I didn't preface any of this by saying that, well, actually I did. I said the Democrats have, have not succeeded in establishing a brand and I'll stand by that. I think that so many Americans agree with the basic features of the Democratic platform, broadly. You know, where they believe that we should have Social Security, where they believe that we should have nationally funded medical, you know, Medicare. "Yeah, I agree, the Democrats have more..." You know they, but, but, but they haven't, they haven't established a good brand and, and I, and I think Howard Dean gets it and I think he's going to that. Jim, I've got to move along. "OK." Thanks for the call. Good point.
Ted in Grand Rapids on the line. Hey Ted, what's up? "Thom, I enjoy your show a lot and I really enjoyed your conversation with that guy about Social Security, and the Republicans are so good at 'bait and switch' and this emphasizing the ownership society that they don't tell people that with all that money you're going to collect when you're 65, if you make an ordinary wage you're going to have to buy an annuity that pays you for the rest of your life and that your heirs cannot inherit." Yeah, well essentially what they are talking about is creating an annuity. It's not, people think that when they, when they retire they're going to get this pile of money, and, and that's not what the Republicans are talking about. This is, again, we haven't seen the details, we haven't seen the features of the program, we've just heard the benefits of it. "Yeah, it's a, it's a, you know, shadow performance here, you know." Yeah, yeah, but it's a, but the more we hear about it, the more it sounds like what they're talking about is sort of an annuity, and, and, yeah, anyway. "you make out, if you have a good wage, you don't have to buy as big an annuity as an ordinary person." Well, of course, of course, of course! If, if, if you're, if you're wealthy, you make out in Bush World, I mean, that's just the bottom line. Ted, thanks for the call. Great to her from you, I do appreciate it. Thom Hartmann here with you in the real free speech zone. No barbed wire. No passes required. No loyalty oaths. Just the truth. ..
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