Politically ignorant generation of sheep

Are we the generation of the politically ignorant?

politically ignorantThe word ignorant gets its root from the word ignore. Someone who is ignorant is someone who ignores. Because we ignore, we are politically ignorant.

I worry about the future of my government because I live with generations of the ignorant. We have almost no sources of news today other than the slimy slanted broadcast news stations and broadcast news centers.

Things have changed and not all change is progress.

When I was a young person, the TV networks took news seriously. The vision of Walter Annenberg attempted to present the top news stories of the day in 30-minute segments every evening.

Some even adopted 60-minute formats and news anchors tried to present the facts. Editorial content was reserved for a few small moments every few weeks when the station’s editorial staff expressly present an opinion piece.

Politically ignorant was not Walter CronkiteThere were inherent reasons why this format worked. Americans, by and large, received or purchased a daily newspaper. These papers subscribed to international bureaus like the AP or UPI and the larger papers had reporters stationed all over the globe, collecting, dissecting and evaluating the validity of the world’s happenings.

The broadcast news bureaus were not designated as profit centers. They were part of the station’s charter to serve the public interest. No one confused or polluted the broadcasts or segments as entertainment. Few were politically ignorant.

When CBS, NBC, and ABC covered the political conventions, the news anchor (like Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley) watched the event and acted as a master of ceremony diverting the live cameras to the stories taking place on the convention floor.

Everyday beat reporters, like the soon to become famous Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw, asked hard hitting questions of Mayor Daley or Everett Dirkson.

What do we have today?

Drivel. Politically ignorant drivel.

Panels of talking heads replay scripted spin. The conventions themselves lack the drama of even the Academy Awards. The reason? All the outcomes and decisions are known before the convention itself. The result is ignorance.

Politically ignorantWho needs to make a considered decision when you can tune into any specific political broadcast and see and hear only from proselytizers and pundits that already agree with your pre-determined decisions?

How many Americans believe that Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and Bill O’Reilly are newsmen?

This lack of discourse makes ignorance comfortable and worse still acceptable. How many of you have heard of the Pulitzer Prize-winning web site called Politifact? It is a web site dedicated to political fact checking. It looks for misinformation on both sides of the aisle.

Today, if you are unhappy with the way government is working (or not working), I say that we get the government we deserve. And we deserve the government we get.

the results of being politically ignorantI am NOT outraged over Donald Trump’s political comments concerning Russians and emails. I AM outraged that his supporters are not providing any political incentives or consequences to stop this unfiltered crap.

Political benefits at what cost? Diplomacy works only through back doors not through bullying tactics. As a nation, we pretend to abhor bulling in our schools but we seem to have no problem rewarding it in the important geopolitical arena.

So what is the end result of political thought that is unchallenged and ignored? History tells us the unbelievable and the inconceivable happens when rational objection and forethought goes out the window.

When it is suggested that we could make ourselves safer and preserve our culture… the silent majority nods in agreement. Let’s put the Jews in camps.

Honey Nut Cheerios Healthy Hearts

Honey Nut Cheerios hits a home run

Honey Nut CheeriosHoney Nut Cheerios is one of General Mill’s flagship brands. The cereal market is in a death spiral (read our in-depth market study on the cereal and breakfast category here) as tastes and consumer patterns change. Breakfast cereal used to be the staple food at breakfast tables across the globe but times have changed.

Honey Nut CheeriosThe venerable brands of my youth (Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, Kellogg’s Cornflakes, Post Raisin Bran, Wheaties and even Cheerios) are hard at work trying to expand the market.

Time was all of the advertising dollars was directed at kids. Even Wheaties (the breakfast of champions) was targeted at getting kids to prefer the cereal over other choices. Today, more and more brands are simply trying to expand the traditional audience by including adults in the advertising too. Most to little effect.

The reason for the failure is that brand permission does not come by simply featuring the target audience in the communication. You need to have the target audience say to themselves, “I want to be that.”

Enter Honey Nut Cheerios

The Cheerios parent brand has been talking heart healthy for many years now. There seems to be no dissenting voices in science that there are REAL benefits to oats (oat bran in particular) in the health and vitality of the human heart. But the message of heart healthy has done very little to expand the category and, while one of the more successful rebrands in the cereal market, Cheerios has continued to disappoint despite outperforming many others in the category.

But the Healthy Hearts Stay Young campaign may be a real game changer.

The commercial has the mandatory adult and child but the similarity ends here. The spots are an exuberant and charming combination of energy and brand without the usual feature of focusing only on the product. The spots are mesmerizing and are so well produced that you find yourself stopping on the commercial when channel surfing. The main spot is THAT good. The supporting spots are less powerful because it is the adult in the main commercial that is most appealing.

Stop the other branded slop.

General Mills Logo Honey Nut CheeriosThis campaign truly builds brand preference. I want to be THAT and I’m sure I am not alone. The precocious child is overshadowed by the talented adult and it is her movement and agility that holds sway in the spot. I simply can’t take my eyes off her and even see the little girl as a distraction. Despite the lack of traditional brand identification, I remembered this commercial as being all about Honey Nut Cheerios. It worked.

Scrap the silly honey bee, General Mills. He (or she) may be cute but the commercials are all about YOU and the natural ingredients. You took the bold step of making your prospects feel that they want to be part of the club and we don’t need any rational reasons why your honey came from bees. To my knowledge, all honey comes from bees.

A few words on Kellogg’s

Bodyform. Bloody, real, important?

Have you seen the new Bodyform TV Commercial?

The pregnant man and the BodyForm Commercial
Saatchi used boldness to great effect

Bodyform got me thinking. I started my career in brand building and advertising many years ago with Saatchi & Saatchi in London. At the time, it was the largest and possibly the most influential ad agency in the world. I don’t think you would get much of an argument with advertising historians and adfolks in general if I stated that the best advertising in the world was coming out of the UK in those days. It was at times edgy, funny, controversial and often provocative.

Is the UK raising the bar again? I ‘ll leave that to you to decide. A friend brought the new BodyForm TV commercial to my attention and was even kind enough to ask for my opinion on it. The truth is, my opinion does not count for much as I am not the target audience for menstrual pads. But I have to say, it seems to fulfill all of my prejudices for great advertising and communication.

Bodyform PackagingIt is bold, unapologetic and controversial. The spin on the web has been mostly positive as the brand has been praised for its use of real blood in the ad and equating a woman’s regular menstral cycle as being as common place as athletics, striving and accomplishment. I think it works on that level.

Bodyform is blazing its own path

But I would really like to hear what you think (I’m talking to the females here). Is it pandering or real? Is it too clever or does it hit you as authentic? Is it too symbolic or does it make the brand (and therefore the user) feel heroic? Do you feel strongly about the brand? Does Bodyform represent something that you want to identify with?

Bodyform BloodMy friend Pam, who brought my attention to the ad, said this: “I understand where they’re coming from. Women are powerful, menstruation is part of being a woman, we bleed. But the imagery, especially the beginning, sets an uncomfortable tone. The woman under water with blood on her head looks like a victim of a horrible crime, that stays with me for the rest of the ad.”

Great communications and great advertising should shine a bright beam of light on the brand itself and the identification that the target audience develops or possesses with the brand. The worst advertising brings attention to itself. The message becomes secondary to the medium itself. What’s the truth here?

I leave that to you to tell me.

Facebook Censorship

Is Facebook guilty of censorship?

fear of rebrandingI had not really considered the idea of Facebook censorship until yesterday. I write a blog almost everyday on marketing, branding, social issues and persuasion.

Occasionally, I will boost the post on Facebook to target an audience that I think might have an interest in the topic covered.

Facebook censcorship
Facebook’s advertising rules

I don’t do this regularly but often enough that I am familiar with Facebook’s rules.

Once in a while I have a blog (Facebook calls them an ad) turned down. Is that rejection a form of Facebook censorship? I had not thought so. Usually it is because the image I have included includes text.

Facebook Censorship
Rejected from boosting my blog

Facebook is stringent on not allowing a blogger like myself to sneak messages past its screeners by including the message as text within an image. This makes sense to me because images are impossible to search for messages. They are just not searchable as text.

Yesterday I wrote a blog about persuasion.

I used as my example of persuasion a discussion on politics and religion on Facebook. I was compelled to write the blog, oddly enough, because one of my Facebook friends posted a political statement about one of the candidates for President. This friend immediately got comments from former school classmates who vehemently disagreed with his post’s assertion. I started to think about what I know about persuasion and how Facebook is a poor venue for trying to affect behavior.

Facebook Censorship seems self-serving

Facebook censorshipDo me a favor and read yesterday’s blog. Then tell me how it transgresses on any of the rules for boosting a post on Facebook? I think it was only guilty of speaking to the limits of Facebook posts and why, as a venue, Facebook friends should probably avoid posts that profess a view on politics or religion.

Why? Because your opinions won’t change anyone’s opinion. It is, in research terms, a self-selected study, meaning only those who adamantly agree with you or fiercely disagree with you will take the time to comment or share. Others may throw up a respectful LIKE, but I doubt they ever read past the first sentence. A nominal like is a passing acknowledgment that they follow you.

In the spirit of full disclosure

Facebook censorshipI’m not a huge fan of Facebook. I find that it causes me to spend way to much time spying into the shenanigans and happenings of friends and acquaintances. I have found it very useful to reconnect with folks I have lost contact with over the years— childhood friends, old classmates, co-workers from another time and the like. But I don’t need Facebook to find out what is going on with my close friends and immediate family.

I know those things the old fashioned way. I talk to them and ask. In many ways, Facebook gives me an artificial sense of intimacy with people I hardly know any more. I come think I know them much better than I really do. It can cause us to refrain from the real connection that comes with a phone call or visit. We THINK we are connected.

Will Facebook Censorship block this blog as well?

This is my real reason for writing this. Will Facebook allow me to express criticism of the pseudo connection that we lie to ourselves as enjoying through Facebook? At this point, I have no clue. I even resubmitted yesterday’s blog to Facebook and asked why it was denied. So far, I know as much about Facebook’s thinking on this as I do about the REAL emotional experiences of my Facebook FRIENDS.

Facebook Politics. Keep it private.

Facebook Politics are NEVER persuasive

Facebook Politics
Trump or Clinton or Sanders?

Facebook politics (posts about political identification) seem to be more and more commonplace today. I’m not so different from you. I have deeply felt political loyalties. However, if you are like me at all, you just cringe to see opposing views posted on Facebook by your friends. However, I don’t cringe when my friends post messages that agree with my bent. What’s going on here?

Its easy to dismiss this personal hypocrisy and blame it on the idea that we all Facebook Politicslike it when others agree with us.

I think that is true, for the most part. But it feels to me that we get our nose out of joint most often when our social media acquaintances post confident opinions on religion or politics.

Other topics don’t seem to bother me too much. I read them but they never ruffle my feathers. Facebook Politics and Facebook religion… well those are different beers altogether.

Facebook is an interesting and timely example of personal branding

For many of us, our Facebook page is the banner of our private brands. We use it to tell the world where we have visited, what we have eaten, what we have seen, who we love and.. what we believe (insert politics or religion here).

I’m no different. A search of my Facebook page reveals posts from my business’s blog, trips I have enjoyed with my wife, restaurant meals that were (sometimes) memorable, pictures of my family and grandchildren and very little more. I try not to post things that express my views on religion and try (sometimes I fail) to ignore political posts.

Facebook PoliticsWhy? Is it because I look at Facebook as a branding tool? Is it because I find posts from others on these topics occasionally offensive? I wish it were so simple.

The truth is that I avoid posts that talk about politicians, politics and religion because I am a student of persuasion. It’s part and parcel of what I do for a living. As a brand strategist, my goal is to position brands in a way that they become persuasive to prospects (and at the same time reassuring to customers).

Facebook politics as a focus seems futile to me. I know how difficult it is to change someone’s mind and I use every tool available to me as a professional brand guy to make the effort successful. I utilize research, competitive and market analyses, switching triggers and a projectable research based understanding of beliefs.

I know that the best way to change a behavior is to align a brand message with an existing belief held by the target audience you want to influence. When done with aplomb, you are not changing behavior insomuch a realigning a behavior with the self-definition of the target audience.

This process works because we are all prisoners of our belief systems. What we BELIEVE to be true (note that it does not have to be true, just believed) always controls our behaviors because it creates the needs and wants that control all of our actions.

Brand is self-identification

Coke is a major player in consumer packaged goods
Are you a Coke?

Usually, this self-identification is general—it forms a philosophy of our lives that gives us personal meaning and eliminates internal conflicts between what we do and what we believe.

Human beings naturally seek refuge in agreement and are repulsed by conflict. When you engage in a behavior that seems alien to your belief systems I can pretty much guarantee that you will eventually cease that behavior. We may be emotionally attached to Coca-Cola but we are not a COKE.

Religion and Politics are a different story. Depending on your bent, you ARE a Christian, Muslim, Atheist Buddhist, Hindu, or Jain. You ARE a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist or Libertarian.

These are the fiber of your belief systems. Rarely are they challenged (as adults) without a catastrophic event.

What this means is that we form attachments to these ideas WITHOUT cognitive introspection. They are emotional beliefs not rational ones.

I know from commercial experience that ALL purchase decisions are emotional choices. They are not cognitive. We may believe we have rational reasons for the things we buy but they most often are rationalizations of an emotional choice. We back-fill the rational to defend the emotional precisely because we can’t abide internal conflicts.

An exercise in futility

Hillary Clinton LogoSo I ask you the question I ask myself, why post your religious views or political polemics on Facebook? Is Facebook politics worthy of your time and effort?

Nothing you say could possibly change someone’s mind because rational arguments, from either side of an issue, will not change anyone a jot. It is an exercise in futility.

A mentor of mine once told me that communication without purpose is at its best unconstructive and at its worst destructive. I think that has never sounded more true to me than hearing about Bernie, Donald or Hillary on Facebook.

We all are where we are and all we risk is offending those who do no agree with our own beliefs with a ZERO chance of changing someone’s mind. I actually believe that it makes others more entrenched in their beliefs. It’s human nature after all.