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The ITT List

Sunday, Feb 20, 2005, 8:16 pm

Yes, Logo?

By Jessica Clark

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Thom Hartmann wants to send progressives straight to Madison Avenue for a makeover:

We're still letting [conservative] define our brand for us, and they're still doing it aggressively. In the month of February, 2005, timed to coincide with the Academy Awards, a con group has rented prominent billboards in Hollywood that will show a smiling picture of George W. Bush with the slogan: "Thank you, Hollywood!". In a row under the prominent and smiling Bush are less flattering photos of Michael Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Afleck, and other outspoken liberals.

There are no Democratic billboards showing the biggest supporters of the Republican Party --corporate fat-cats like Ken Lay, with private jets and limousines, living in baronial mansions.

In classic marketing theory, there are two foundational concepts. Features ("what is it?") without benefits ("why should I care?") lack relevance. And, benefits without features lack credibility.

Once these are mastered, you "chunk up" (to use NLP terminology) to branding: "Features and benefits without identification ("Who am I when I use this product?") lack "stickiness" or persistence.

Progressives and Democrats are still working on features --the details of programs.

The New Deal and the Great Society were both sucessful brands for previous Democrats, he argues--brands that resonated with and benefited ordinary Americans. The Republicans recognize this; that's why they are actively working to simultaneously topple and appropriate FDR's legacy.

What appeal might work now in our suspicious and marketing-saturated culture? Who are we when we use progressive principles, anyway? Have at it, and for Chrissake, make it sticky:

Jessica Clark is a writer, editor and researcher, with more than 15 years of experience spanning commercial, educational, independent and public media production. Currently she is the Research Director for American University’s Center for Social Media. She also writes a monthly column for PBS’ MediaShift on new directions in public media. She is the author, with Tracy Van Slyke, of Beyond the Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics Through Networked Progressive Media (2010, New Press).

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