Friday, October 29, 2010

The Tea party Brand: Reality TV or Twilight Zone?

I read Michael Joseph Gross’ Vanity Fair feature about Sarah Palin the other day. What it reveals about Palin can be applied to the Tea Party candidates in general.

In an era when 24/7 cable news and social media give political candidates nowhere to hide, you would think America would relegate the tea party nut-jobs to the back of the bus. But somehow they have found a way to “go Palin.”

Mr. Gross describes how the Palin brand is defined by, and dependent on, Sarah Palin “injecting herself into the news on a strictly one-way basis” primarily using social media, and the press plays along. Information flows only one way – hers. We saw how badly it went for Palin when interviewed by real journalists expecting real answers to real, unfiltered questions. That two-way thing just didn’t work for her, so she created her own reality.

But keep in mind, she’s not held accountable for her shrill pronouncements because she’s not running for anything, nor is she still Alaska’s governor. She quit to pursue the big bucks – speaking fees, a new reality TV show, the book, the whole shebang.

The story shines an extremely unflattering light on an angry, vengeful Palin, about whom the town folk in Wasilla seem to be afraid to say anything for fear of reprisals. The whole thing is so weird, Gross describes Palin’s hometown of Wasilla “like a place in The Twilight Zone – a town populated entirely by abuse survivors.”

The amazing thing is how the Tea Party candidates who actually are running for office – Angle, O’Donnell and Miller most notably among them – are able to use the same sort of tactics and still be taken seriously by the electorate. Remember when people running for office actually had to “relate” to the media? How they would undergo something called “media training” to avoid looking stupid, instead of literally running away from the media?

The Tea Party brand. They should have called it "Chock Full 'o Nuts."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Only 14 years in the making - MSNBC Defines itself with a great new tag.

Along with MSNBC’s launch of its new branding campaign, Sharon Otterman, the chief marketing officer for MSNBC, said something that should carved into some branding monument somewhere. She said “When you’re clear about who you are, you actually make money.” That, in a nutshell, is the very definition of branding.

The cable news channel unveiled its new tagline today - “Lean Forward.”

As reported yesterday in the NY Times, this is the first time MSNBC, now the No. 2 cable news channel, has made an earnest attempt to define who they are. Jeez, nice to finally meetchya, MSNBC.

I like this new tagline because it makes a very smart statement. It suggests a smart, contemporary, forward-thinking news organization. And that’s my personal impression when I watch their programming. I think what MSBC is saying is “it’s not about who leans left, or who leans right. Leave that to the other guys. We want to be known for going forward.” And of course, it implies that their primary competition, the conservative and so-called “Fair and Balanced” Fox News Channel, is leaning backward.

About that Fox News tag, you tell me – what kind of legitimate news organization would feel the need to tell you they are “fair and balanced?” Only one, I suppose, that is anything but. But that’s another post.

“The Place for Politics” catchphrase will be used alongside “Lean Forward.” Can’t wait to see more of their campaign.