Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Andre Burnett | Politics and marketing

Published:Wednesday | October 26, 2016 | 10:00 AM
André Burnett
In this photo provided by NBC, Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon spoof US presidential candidates Donal Trump and Hilary Clinton in a 'Saturday Night Live' skit aired October 1, 2016.
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The way I see it, politics is really an economy made up of businesses that start off selling ideas, ideals, beliefs, or sometimes just collective hysteria.

You could even think of a political party as a really old public business with a board, CEO and a management structure.

Their main job would be marketing to the public to spend their vote, time and support with them so that they can get to perform their secondary job ... governance.

That's why a politician doesn't have to be an expert in any field to lead policies, he just needs to know how to select and manage the experts - just like a great CEO.

The thing is, I don't think we tend to think of it as marketing and consumption when we hear a political message and decide to accept and own it. If we did, we would be more judicious in our political process and a whole lot more cynical.

Getting elected in a First World country nowadays requires the singular knowledge of managing your optics. It's not as important to perform as it is to produce, package and place the performance.

We're getting to that stage in Jamaica, and the country will be all the better for it because today's consumers are more informed than ever, so every message will be fact-checked diligently and disseminated speedily if you are found to be disingenuous.

But we're not there yet, or at least one party isn't there, while the other has a handy head-start.

When Dr Barbara Carby, director of the Disaster Risk Reduction Centre at UWI, intimated that the role of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPEM) was somewhat overshadowed by the input of "politicians", she wasn't quite met with an overwhelming outpouring of vocal support, especially not from the "articulate minority".

After all, the Government had been showered with praise over the handling of the almost-disaster and every carefully curated tweet, picture or comment had been released perfectly on time.

We are a generation that craves access and frequency of that access. You could also argue that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has larger bases on social media than the ODPEM, and, as such, they would be able to disseminate information more quickly.

 

SELLING OPERATIONAL CONFIDENCE

 

The thing is that the JLP is selling operational confidence and, let's face it, the ODPEM doesn't have to face the polls every few years. Imagine missing an opportunity to have Minister Desmond McKenzie deliver a line like this: "While we hope that there will be no further brushes with weather systems for the rest of the hurricane season, the country can be assured that the Government will be ready to lead Jamaica through (any) storm".

That's gold.

It's the kind of access that has always been par for the course in most First World countries, but the JLP has beaten the People's National Party to the punch and have captured the interest and imagination of an increasingly large segment of informed and connected vocal supporters.

Plus, being late to the party also means that the PNP has to compete on that front while being in opposition. That's a toughie.

But hearkening back to politics in the United States, this campaign has been surreal, as in, I cannot believe that this isn't a TV show with a really huge audience with an unlikely presidential candidate taking on the establishment - the establishment in this case being politicians who actually seem to know what they're talking about.

 

FAR FROM REALITY

 

My theory is that Donald Trump was hired by Hillary Clinton as an actor to infiltrate the GOP and become a candidate that even she could beat.

It was when Trump said "bigly" repeatedly, that I became even more convinced that my theory holds a lot more water than the reality that these two are actually the candidates for presidency of a country with a whole lot of bombs and unmanned planes to drop bombs. So how did they get this far?

Well, in Clinton's case, she's a politician playing the game as she's known it. Trump went left-field, well, right-field - but you get the gist. He tailored a message and a personality that was really identifiable to a lot of people who don't really get to hear that kind of stuff without tuning in to Fox News.

Let's face it, it's hard to find anything current within the media that doesn't have a slight Democratic slant. Trump was a product that deep white America could buy almost without thinking. Trump is a master of being seen, and with each outlandish remark or action being covered by both sides, it's been a masterful control of running a political campaign for the new era of consumers who can't wait to hear the next true/outrageous/preposterous statement.

What's the nugget to take from all of this? It's really that the new consumer expects a show. Every single event has a lead-up, complete coverage from start to finish, and then an after-movie to catch you up on what you missed or what everybody else is talking about.

Politics is no different in this era. The better the production, the better the ratings.

-Andre Burnett is a creative strategist who has recently developed a sincere appreciation for delegation. dre@museinspires.com