"People see and hear politics with the eyes and ears of consumers."
-Michael Silverstein, author of Talking Politics and Professor of Anthropology at University of Chicago

Politics, according to Silverstein, are no longer about issues - like advertising, it's about images. The aura that surrounds the message conveys more meaning than the actual words, the total encapsulating "message" means more than the initial message (notice the absence of the scare quotes on this one). It's not about "just do it" - it's about Michael Jordon saying it (and not some ninety year old woman), it's about him soaring to the goal (and not the woman putting in her dentures), it's about the fast paced editing of the video (not the slow movements of the woman).Sprite claims Image is Nothing. But in fact, it's everything. And now, it's not just confined to selling a can of soda, it's the key to selling candidates for the President of the United States of America.

There are two types of messages, says Silverstein: There is the message and "the message." The message (without scare quotes) is the conveyance of denotations, the actual words of "I like pecans," plain and simple. "The message" (with scare quotes) are like the connotations, everything that surrounds the communication of those words: the who, what, when, where, and why. Using the sentence "I like pecans" to explain "the message" you would consider who is saying it (economic, social background), how they say it (pih-caun or pee-can?), where and why they said it (in the case of politics, are they thus supporting farmers of these nuts and thus the agricultural industry in general?). Silverstein argues that in modern day politics we think we want the message (no scare quotes), i.e. just the issues, plain and simple. But when it comes down to it, we really don't want the message. As Silverstein points out, Al Gore was all about the message. He had plenty of messages to communicate, but not enough "messages" to give the public with which to identify. Bush, on the other hand, did not have many messages (or at least not many he understood), but when it came to "the messages" the public was enamored. We are more concerned with the meaning that surrounds the message; we are more interested in "the message." It isn't the issues, it's what those issues stand for and the extraneous issues they create by existing. Another famous author spoke of messages, ah yes, Marshal McLuhan. If we think about this in context of Marshall McLuhan's grand contribution of "the medium is the message," the medium in Silverstein's definition would be the person who delivers the message. The person is "the message." Everything they encapsulate, from social class to grammatical pronunciation makes meaning. It creates "the message" that people can identify with to understand and classify the message (no scare quotes) in context. Silverstein concludes (although not so simply) that it was "the message" not the message (no scare quotes) that landed Bush in the White House.

In other words, people (and by people of course we mean the 47.9% and 5 Supreme Court Justices that voted for Bush) wanted to identify with "the message" like they would an ad - "I'm a Ford Bronco type of guy!" In essence Bush, Gore, and almost all other policitical leaders in the spotlight become their own brand. Coke vs. Pepsi becomes Newt Gingrich vs. John Kerry.

If this is the case, what would happen if we actually employed the components of branding in the advertising world to that of the political world? Obviously, politics and advertising has already entered each others realm, but in terms of using the same strategy. One of the leading advertising agencies in the world uses a strategy called "Brand Footprint." It goes something like this:


"The Brand Footprint™ is Momentum's unique tool for defining a brand's essence. The Brand Footprint™ is a coherent statement of a brand's meaning and personality.

Specifically it embodies:

What the brand "means". What the brand "means" is what a brand gets credit for in the eyes of consumers - its reputation across a number of key dimensions. For example, Bayer means aspirin, doctor recommended, and prevention against heart attacks.

What the brand "is". What the brand "is" is how we would describe the brand's dominant personality traits - generally those that correspond to its principal meanings. For example, Bayer is experienced, safe, and versatile. "

For established brands, the Footprint is built around existing positive associations. For some brands, however, there may be a need to add or adjust meanings to allow for expansion or make the brand more dynamic.

So let's try sending Dubya through this brand footprint process:

Lets start with the "facts" (why is everything in scare quotes?!):
C-average student at Yale, former Governer of Texas, funded by Interst groups such as the Religious Right, dad former Pres.
What do these facts mean though? It depends on how you want them to be perceived.
C-average student at Yale:
MEANS not the brightest in his class, grades not biggest priority, proves daddy's money and prestige landed him a spot in the entering freshman class.
IS stupid, partier, lazy.
But that's not what people voted for, perhaps Bush's consultants forsaw this and did their own "projected Brand Footprint" - a prescription if you will to adjust and improve perceptions.
C-average student at Yale.
MEANS ivy-league educated, more to life than studying, resourceful of father's connections.
IS educated, fun-loving, resourceful.

How about that for a make-over Dubya?

Now it's time to move on to the line of Democrats waiting and willing to replace the boots under the Oval Office desk with their own.

Do they have what it takes? Does it matter? Maybe they just need a new boot to step in line with, or what those in the know like to call a brand new footprint.

In 1997, Charlottesville experienced its first wave of radio consolidation. In an article that appeared in the Cavalier Daily, Mike Friend, the owner and general manager of 91.9 WNRN made this prediction about the future of Charlottesville radio: "It's like the cartoon of the big fish eating the little fish, and the bigger fish comes up and eats the formerly big fish." He was, at the time, referring to the pending merger between the Charlottesville Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and Eure Communications. But the fish keep biting.

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With the creation of any new technology and its introduction to society, there follows a legal inertia. The courts for the most part cannot know of any ill effects of such technologies until they are unleashed into the hands of the public and are tested by consumers. As more and more capabilities of a new technology are discovered, it is likely that the innovation is pushing its legal limits more and more. The field of innovation has thus become a battleground between new technologies and intellectual property rights, which in most cases boils down to the public interest versus the private interest, pitting individuals and small businesses against corporate giants such as the Recording Industry Association of America.

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Comic books, those colorful compilations of pictures heralding the adventures of superheroes and the super-villains they combat used to appeal to adolescent males. Now, comic books appeal to those same boys, except those boys have now become men and their children have a greater variety of distractions-computers, television, video games-that attract their attention and capture their imaginations. In an attempt to share the pleasure and adventure that baby boomers found in comic books with their children, they have “updated” the stories and the heroes to the twenty-first century. With those updates, the language that the characters use is more sophisticated, the violence more graphic, the female characters less clothed, and the stereotypes more subtle in a way that makes them more menacing.

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"'Lloyd was this alternative-looking hipster, and I can honestly say I wasn't feeling him at first,' says Vanessa*, 30, who is usually a sucker for the preppy type. 'But when he graciously got up to receive my coat, I unexpectedly found myself wondering if he'd be just as attentive in bed.'"

* Names have been changed.
Cosmopolitan, May 2003

I'm not sure what's more wrong with this-the Vanessa* or the "in bed." Shocker: I don't really care.

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