Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Branding Personalities

Read this interesting article on why Hillary Clinton lost - because of bad brand management. When the mind and imagination of the public is in the stranglehold of mainstream media, those in the spotlight can no longer afford to just be. Instead they must come packaged neatly not unlike an attractive consumer product.

A bottle of Coke is best identified by its iconic color and font. Trying something completely different with it would dilute the power of the brand. In this case, the other side was apparently the more compelling (not to mention steadfast) brand and they stayed true to one distinct message. Just as tub of ice-cream, a credit card or a handbag can be just the one thing, similarly public figures must be only one thing described in one sentence or less.

You have to wonder if we the consumers of media are indeed so limited in our capacity to absorb and process information. The implication is that unless we have a set of sound bytes and images hit us relentlessly, we will not be able to grasp the message being conveyed. That a more complex or nuanced delivery would be lost on us. To that end, it is best (indeed safest) to stick to one line to the bitter end.

Somehow, all this reminds me of the argument that a lot of mainstream Bollywood movie directors make about the poor quality of the fare they produce. The popular notion is that they can serve only what the market has the ability to accept. They argue that the "average" audience of a typical Bollywood flick is not evolved enough to take in a sophisticated plot line. However, the same audience has always been able to navigate effortlessly through the Byzantine plots of epics such as Ramayan and Mahabharat.

Surely, the purveyors of sub-par cinema in Bollywood cannot conceive of anything even remotely as complex. Just like their case against the average Bollywood movie goer does not makes sense, similarly the idea of converting a public personality into an easy to digest brand is counter-intuitive.

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