Sunday, February 24, 2008

It's Still All About Consumerism

Here's an interesting tidbit that showed up on Net News Publisher yesterday:

U.S. consumers rate Barack Obama as more appealing, trustworthy, and influential than other presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton and John McCain, according to data released today by the Davie Brown Celebrity Index (DBI).

According to the DBI, an independent index typically used by brand marketers to determine a celebrity’s ability to influence consumer purchase intent, Obama’s scores in “appeal” are 15 points higher than those of Clinton and 12 points higher than McCain.

The Illinois Senator also scored 12 points better in the DBI’s “trust” attribute than Clinton and McCain.

It's not that we did not already know that politics is all about manipulating consumers through brand marketing. It's that we rarely get to peek behind the curtain and see the quantitative metrics that drive the whole damned process; and, as is often the case, the meaning is best revealed by the poetic wisdom behind the numbers. Jeff Chown, president of Davie Brown Talent, has given us a taste of that poetic wisdom:

In terms of appeal and trust, in the minds of U.S. consumers, comparing Obama to Clinton is like comparing Tom Hanks to Martha Stewart.

So let's step back from the whole shootin' match (and, considering the recent Clinton strategy, that metaphor is hardly out of place) and look instead at the dead moose on the table. Brand marketing is all about consumer manipulation: getting consumers to consumer more in general and more of your "stuff" in particular. One man has devoted pretty much the entirety of his career to protecting consumers from getting snookered by brand marketers; and that man is (drum roll, please) Ralph Nader! So is it any wonder that he has decided to upset the apple cart by entering the political fray one more time?

Of course one of the things that makes Nader so "unreasonable" is that those brand marketers do such a good job that consumers actually prefer being snookered to being protected! The metaphors of our life revolve around little pink bunnies and Asian lizards that speak with an Australian accent, even if we have no particular need for what they are trying to sell us. So it is that, in trying to protect us from the same confidence games in the political process, Ralph Nader will once again find himself tilting at windmills and vilified for taking away the votes of those few people who recognize the sense he is making. This is not so much a question of whether or not the medium is the message but of how media have lulled us into a false sense of security that no longer cares whether or not there is a message!

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