An Easy Thing the GOP Can Do To Build Its Brand Back Up

brandBack in December, I wrote a column urging the Republican Party to invest more of its resources in pop-culture messaging. The idea was to capture the attention of an increasingly unengaged, growing portion of the electorate that is far more concerned with keeping itself entertained than informed about what’s going on in the country they live in.

One of the suggestions I offered was to run a series of commercials, in the form of public service announcements, framing the deep challenges our nation faces (like the national debt, over-regulation, etc.) as causes rather than as issues. The idea was part of a long-term strategy to promote simple awareness of such challenges in a lighthearted way that was direct, informative, and wasn’t overtly partisan. Doing so would give conservatives an opportunity to narrate their philosophy to a segment of the population that is accustomed to identifying that philosophy with the defamatory caricature liberals have created for it.

Again, this was part of a long-term strategy. In the short-term, I think the Republican Party could use a similar mechanism to specifically help their brand.

As just about everybody knows, the Republican brand is not doing well right now. Half of the country views the party exactly the way the liberal media has worked hard to negatively portray it. A good portion of the other half has felt pressure to take sides between what has become known as the establishment and the tea party factions. Sure, those labels over-simplify what’s really going on, but the tension is real. And though a case could be made that such tension (and the spirited debate that comes with it) is healthy for the party in the long-term, it certainly isn’t doing it many favors right now.

What I believe will do the GOP some favors would be to watch a video recently put out by a man named Elbert Guillory. Guillory is a state senator from the Louisiana. Earlier this month, he switched his party affiliation from ‘Democrat’ to ‘Republican’, and he detailed why in his video entitled “Why I Am a Republican”.

Guillory happens to be an African American. In his speech, he explains quite eloquently why the policies of the Republican party are much more favorable to the black community than those of the Democratic party.

“At the heart of liberalism,” Guillory says, “is the idea that only a great and powerful big government can be the benefactor of social justice for all Americans. But the left is only concerned with one thing: control. And they disguise this control as charity.”

He goes on to say that programs like Welfare and Food Stamps aren’t designed to lift Americans out of poverty, and that they’ve led people to sacrifice their self-initiative and self-reliance in exchange for their allegiance to “overseers” (aka politicians). He points out that the result has been control through dependency.

He does a good job of contrasting the liberal philosophy against that of the GOP, explaining that Republicans embrace the freedom of individuals, and “to be truly free is to be reliant on no one…”

Sure, such things have been pointed out before, but his words carry some extra weight for numerous reasons. Guillory doesn’t fit the mold of the stereotypical Republican – you know, the rich old white guy that liberals insist accurately symbolizes the party. And though there are a number of Republican politicians in this country that are of racial minorities (many of whom are strong speakers), Guillory comes across particularly well as a man of the people. He seems like a very introspective guy who could no longer bring himself to adhere to the failed, largely condescending philosophies of the Democratic Party that have deeply damaged the community he clearly cares about. Perhaps most notably, he speaks with pride about why he is now a Republican and urges others to join him.

That kind of thing strengthens the Republican brand.

I felt the same way when I was watching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech, back during the 2004 Republican National Convention. At the time, Schwarzenegger was a still rock star – a pop-culture icon who probably compelled a lot of non-Republican moviegoers to tune in that night to listen to him speak.

In his speech, he talked about why he was proud to be a Republican. He spoke of leaving Austrian socialism and coming to America as a poor immigrant where he was drawn to the Republican tenets of free enterprise, limited government, low taxes, and a strong military. He credited those tenets as the hallmarks of what makes this country great.

“To my fellow immigrants listening tonight,” he said to the cheering crowd. “I want you to know how welcome you are in this party. We Republicans admire your ambition. We encourage your dreams. We believe in your future. And one thing I learned about America is that if you work hard and if you play by the rules, this country is truly open to you. You can achieve anything.”

He then urged others to join him by defining what it is that makes someone a Republican: “If you believe that government should be accountable to the people, not the people to the government, then you are a Republican. If you believe that a person should be treated as an individual, not as a member of an interest group, then you are a Republican. If you believe that your family knows how to spend your money better than the government does, then you are a Republican. If you believe that our educational system should be held accountable for the progress of our children, then you are a Republican. If you believe that this country, not the United Nations, is best hope for democracy, then you are a Republican. And … if you believe that we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism, then you are a Republican!”

I thought it was a brilliant move, and I credit whoever it was that actually wrote that speech. It was a smart way of introducing independents and apolitical people to the party. I believe it was effective and strengthened the Republican brand.

The commonality between Guillory’s speech and Schwarzenegger’s speech is that both men compelled the people listening to think of themselves as Republicans – even if they hadn’t self-identified as such in the past.

After all, it makes sense that in a country where twice as many people consider themselves “conservatives” as do “liberals”, there are a lot of natural “Republicans” that just don’t realize it, or haven’t put a lot of thought into it. This is largely due to the Democrats doing a better job of defining Republicans (negatively) than the Republicans themselves have. Sure, a lot of it has to do with media largely being in the tank for the Democrats, but Republicans aren’t totally helpless. They can do effective things to define themselves, including getting a better handle on how they promote their vision to Americans.

A dramatically different kind of marketing campaign is needed to do this – something that draws people in instead of the typical political campaigns that serve as little more than background noise. The conservative message is a good one, but conservative messaging in recent years has been quite poor. The commercials we see on television, for example, are overly-serious, too in-your-face, and often resemble more of an indictment of their opposition than they do the advancement of whatever larger point that is trying to be made. They also grossly overestimate the political knowledge of most Americans, which is not good.

To look for an example of how to get their messaging right, and compel people to identify with their philosophy, they should borrow from a simple, successful approach used by the Mormon Church. I’m talking about the “I’m a Mormon” campaign.

The “I’m a Mormon” campaign has done a good job in recent years of dispelling the myths and negative stereotypes associated with the church. Its primary focus has been in the form of Internet videos, but I’ve also seen a number of television spots. Each ad gives a glimpse into the life of an individual Mormon, profiling their upbringing, life experiences, and where they’re at now. The idea is to get people to view Mormons as their neighbors – people who are an awful lot like them, and seem to have their lives very much together. In other words, they’re people who others can easily identify with.

Imagine a similar ad, in which an immigrant from Mexico (to the back-drop of him greeting people at a restaurant) tells his story of coming to the United States twenty years ago with five dollars in his pocket, working his way up from a busboy at a restaurant to eventually a manager, and then later opening his own restaurant. He tells of how he came from a country whose citizens are marginalized by their leaders, and are taught that the government is the primary source of wealth. He explains that government dependency is unhealthy and it doesn’t create prosperity. It instead strips away people’s dignity and their ability to produce. He says that if he had listened to the Democratic Party when he came to this country, he wouldn’t be where he’s at now. He says that he believes in a system in which the government lets people succeed by not over-taxing and over-regulating, thus encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit this country was founded on. He ends the spot with stating his name and saying, “… and that’s why I’m a Republican.”

Imagine another ad showing a mother dropping her children off at school, while her narrative voice explains her worries about her kids’ future. She talks about a broken public education system in which effective teachers are expendable, and ineffective teachers are protected. She says that valuing teachers by their seniority instead of their job performance may be in the best interest of unions, but it’s not in the best interest of our children. She explains that she wants more options for her children’s education, so quality schools can compete for the opportunity to provide our kids with a quality education. She states her name then says, “… and that’s why I’m a Repubican.”

The GOP could run ads like this for just about every political issue there is, as way of defining their vision in a way that appeals directly to people with similar concerns who may not have realized that there’s a movement out there that sees things the same way that they do.From a Dead Sleep - by John A. Daly

The people in these videos should be real – not actors. And for the most part, they shouldn’t be made up of public figures. Sure, you could throw in someone like John Schnatter (the CEO of Papa John’s Pizza) or Utah politician, Mia Love, just to invite a little extra attention. But the rest should be private citizens, and these profiled individuals should be the kind of people who don’t fit the mold of the stereotypical Republican. They should be young people from a mix of different races, careers, and backgrounds. They should people who are proud to tout their party affiliation not just in front of the camera, but also when the camera is off.

This kind of campaign can only help in building back up the Republican brand.

Sure, it will generate an abundance of Internet parodies, but what doesn’t these days? What matters is that people will be given a reason to identify with the Republican Party, and perhaps want to learn more about the party platform.

As with the other suggestions I’ve thrown out to the GOP in the past, this isn’t the silver bullet that will solve all of the party’s problems. It would, however, serve as an important piece of the puzzle the Republican Party needs to complete if they want to get back to being the party in power.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration, and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. His first novel, entitled "From a Dead Sleep", is now on sale! He lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
  • I Hate Fascists

    Well he isn’t as bad as Perlutsky, I’ll say that much for him. But it doesn’t matter what John Daly believes. Let him have his little fun being a cult hero to all these little Daly Maniacs. The right wing is nothing more than a hate group. And as they found out last November, the country hates them back. There is no reasoning with them, they only respond with abuse, condecension and implied threats. So I don”t waste time debating them, I just taunt them with the truth that their Fascist Fantasyland will never become a reality. And because they cannot handle the truth, they have banned me for life from commenting on this website.

    • legal eagle

      Right Wing Nut Jobs aka The American Taliban….lol

  • Bob Olden

    Great column, John.

    I think this kind of “testimonial” could have a lot of impact, but how do you get people to believe that the people are NOT actors reading from a script? Unfortunately, the political forum has been poisoned by slick marketing techniques.

    Hannity had a good thing going the other night on Fox, talking to a large group of African Americans who are Conservatives. The dialogue was electric, and the participants largely did a good job articulating their positions. But who was listening? Probably just the typical Fox News listener. How does this kind of material capture the attention of the disengaged generation?

    • John Daly

      Thanks Bob. I would definitely have their name and occupation captioned at the bottom of the screen.

      I haven’t watched Hannity in a while, but like many conservatives, I’m sure he’s every bit as frustrated as I am that more people don’t understand that the conservative philosophy is one of color-blindness.

      It’s modern day liberalism that often judges people by the color of their skin, and not the content of their character. The conservative philosophy transcends race.

      Are there Republican racists? Yes. Are there Democratic racists? Absolutely. But a vision that treats people as equals and doesn’t define people by their skin color – that’s conservatism.

      What I’ve found absolutely ironic (and I might write a column about this) is that most of the racial stereotypes I’m aware of… I had never even heard of them until the left began using them to accuse the right of being racist. I’m serious about that. These “dog whistles” that people like Chris Matthews love to point out – I never would have even thought to associate them with skin color, had it not been for all of the “ah-has!” from those lefties.

      To me, the fact that people like Matthews (and many others) hear words like “basketball” or “lazy” and immediately think “black person”… Can’t a better case be made that THEY are the ones who are actually racist?

      • Bob Olden

        Thanks John. I think it’s awesome that you engage with people who respond to your blog. I was thinking of another way to get the politically illiterate to pay attention. Conservatives should create a Jon Stewart style show to poke fun at the idiotic things that liberals say and do.

        • John Daly

          No problem. I enjoy doing so.

          Fox News actually tried this a while back with a short-lived Sunday night comedy show called the “1/2 Hour News Hour”.

          It had the right idea, but it wasn’t nearly as funny as it could have been… and it seemed Fox News wasn’t a great network to put it on.

          It think the closest conservatives have now is Red Eye, which is fantastic, but a 3am show can’t exactly compete with the Daily Show.

  • kayakbob

    some good ideas, John. I hope someone that can implement is reading this. Personally, I have been buoyed for some time by this basic belief: When I was young, I didn’t really “get it”, but when I started paying taxes; got a mortgage (i.e. saved for the down payment, then prioritize my spending to make the mortgage payments in those early years, etc.), then I got it. By the age of 31 or 32 I was solidly in the conservative column and have been ever since. Now I am 57 and most people my age that speak on this express pretty much the same track.

    So I was sure that many, if not most(?) of the generations behind me would go through that same sort of evolution. But they haven’t. We seem to be moving in the opposite direction. So what changed? Perhaps you are onto something here.

    • John Daly

      Hi Bob,

      I hear you. I was the same way, and figured it out as well.

      I think a lot of the problem now is that society has grown more impulsive and selfish – probably due to our on-demand culture. People don’t have to work as hard for things as they used to, so they fail to understand the mechanics behind what they have. They don’t understand that there is no such thing as a benefit without a cost. They see only benefits.

      I also attribute a lot of it today’s media… which is what drew me to this website long before I ever started writing here. We live in a time in which, because of how corrupt the providers of news are, debates can’t even begin with a mutually accepted set of facts. Instead of deciding the best way to put out a fire, we can’t even agree that fire is hot and dangerous.

      It’s insane.

      • kayakbob

        I attribute a lot of our condition to (current media) as well. But as I drop all that crap on the doorstep of media, I also have to stop and think, “wait a minute”. I grew up in the days of 3 networks CBS, NBC, ABC. They had a monopoly on what got reported and how it got reported. I made sure I got home from work/school by 6pm every night so I could watch..wait for it…the CBS Evening News! This was before cable, before VCR’s and certainly before DVR’s and the internet. But as I watch Rather and company (yes, B. Goldberg as well) I “knew” they were slanting what they were feeding me and I “knew” I had to take it with a grain of salt, if not plain reject it. But I actually looked forward to getting home to watch the CBS Evening News…every night.

        Today you couldn’t pay me to watch CBS News for 5 minutes. But my point is this: why are we moving farther and farther left, as the options for getting our “information” are more varied than ever before, in the history of the world? (It is a rhetorical question, but any insight is welcome)

        • John Daly

          I think it really goes back what I had said before. There aren’t mutually-accepted sets of facts when it comes to national discussions anymore. In the old days, the media was certainly slanting the news, but they weren’t outright political surrogates for campaigns.

          Back then, a shameless political strategy like the GOP’s supposed “War on Women” would have never taken hold. It defied all objective reason. But today’s media chose to actively promote the DNC’s concocted strategy and force-feed it down the public’s throat. And it worked!
          And from the second the election was over, we all stopped hearing about it. Why? Because the strategy served its purpose and it was never a serious story to begin with.

          The old crew at the three networks were biased, but they didn’t serve as political activists.

  • msgmak

    I told my wife back in 2007 that the GOP needed to do social media and branding to help change their stigma. Two elections later and they still don’t have a clue. They are stinking the place up and now I have no representation whatsoever, none that could challenge the Dems anyway. Also tired of the “will of the people” being trumped by judges during the past 10 years or so. Way too many other issues to list. Not much hope left, but had some fun while it lasted. Good luck to all of you.

    • John Daly

      It’s bad. They’ve certainly become more involved in social media, but they’re as sloppy as can be. It’s disheartening for sure.

  • Wheels55

    As with most everything, our youth represents our future. To rebrand the Republican image, even just a conservative image, has to start there. Unfortunately, youth thinks they know it all and has little time to look ahead. Yet, the thrills of Obamacare and the impact it will have on our youth will be a good place to start. They will pay more for their insurance while they are in the healthiest stages of their lives. The GOP has to take a “what’s in it for them” approach if the American youth will listen.

  • John Daly

    How terribly clever. You should go upstairs and share that zinger with your parents. ;)

    • legal eagle

      I will discuss this with my parents the next time I go to visit their gravesites…..

      • I Hate Fascists

        My condolences bro. My Mom just passed away so I know how you feel.

  • Wil

    Elbert Guillory has a conservative political philosophy. He was a Republican prior to 2007 when he changed from Republican to Democrat before successfully seeking election from heavily Democratic District 40 in the Louisiana House of Representatives.”
    Yeah, he really saw the light. He changed the letter behind his name in 2007 to try to win a minority district that leaned D. He was a conservative before, and still is, and this whole conversion thing is a sham.

    • John Daly

      Interesting. Sounds similar to Obama’s history on gay marriage. ;)

      • David W. Hunter

        zing!

      • John Daly

        How so?

        • John Daly

          lol. Are you physically incapable of telling the truth, IHF? We’ve been through this. Just in case you’re just extremely dense and not purposely misrepresenting my position (my bet is on the latter), we’ll go through it again. Maybe you can do a screen capture to help you retain it this time.

          I’ve supported gay marriage for many years, I’ve voted for it in my state, repeatedly, for many years. I wrote about that support long before November. I’ve never claimed to be an ‘ardent’ supporter or an ‘activist’. There are many issues I’m far more passionate about, and I’ve always been content with letting states figure out their own marriage laws.

          I did defend Chick Fil-A because I believe in the first amendment. I don’t have to agree with someone to become angered when the mayor of Chicago starts threatening to ban a business from his city because he doesn’t like what its CEO has to say.

          Obama’s “change of heart” WAS a joke. It was the forth time in his political career that he switched back and forth on gay marriage, and it only came at a time when fundraising for his presidential campaign was in the dumps.

          Now, copy and paste this. Print it out. Stick it on your fridge so you can remember it… or maybe just stop lying about it. ;)

          • I Hate Fascists

            If you can provide any links to any articles you wrote supporting gay marriage prior to November, please accept my apology in advance. If you can’t (my bet is on the latter) then have a nice life.
            Understand this. I take your Fascist Fatwa banning me for life from commenting on your Fascist Fantasyland website as the ultimate compliment. As admission/submission that I can come on your turf any time and beat you at your own game and you have no recourse but to silence me. And as validation of everything I have been saying. Which is: You are the Big Red Hate Machine. You are the Stupid And Proud Of It Party. In spite of your vows to change your ways, you cannot and will not because hatred and stupidity are inbred in you and you cannot change except to become more hateful and more stupid. So go ahead with your silly campaign and get Elbert Guillory, Allan West, Dragon Lady Malkin, and all 17 of your other non-whites to explain “Why I’m a Fascist”. No doubt it will go over real big in your Fascist Fantasyland, but in the real world no one with any sense will take you seriously. And that brings me to my final point. YOU WILL NEVER EVER EVER EVER TAKE THIS COUNTRY BACK!!!

          • John Daly

            Still not sure why the November election is some magical cut-off date, but here you go:

            Mentioned in twice here:

            http://www.bernardgoldberg.com/obamas-outing-on-gay-marriage-was-not-an-act-of-bravery/

            Mentioned it in replies to commenters in these:
            http://www.bernardgoldberg.com/was-obamas-evolution-on-gay-marriage-a-license-to-bigot-bait/
            http://www.bernardgoldberg.com/good-christian-bigots/

            Apology accepted, now stop lying about it. I didn’t ban you either. Stop lying about that as well. If an admin banned you, I’m sure you gave them a good reason to. I can guarantee to you (for a number of reasons) that it wasn’t because you were just too good of a debater. lol.

          • I Hate Fascists

            Not so fast bro. The first 2 links are the 2 that I mentioned, one has a single sentence buried in your anti-Obama diatribe. The other just a response to a comment. The third link you did not write. You did not write a full-length article pro gay marriage until after November. Why is November significant? I think I explained that already. Go back and read it again if you still do not get it. As to your Fascist Fatwa against me, no doubt leaving you stupefied and humiliated every time is a very good reason. I would let my comments speak for themselves and let those who frequent this Fascist Fantasyland decide for themselves. I would, that is, if you had not taken your Fascist paranoia to the next level and deleted everything I have ever posted anywhere on this site. That proves my point, don’t you think?

          • John Daly

            So? Why would I write multiple full-length columns on an issue I already told you is less important to me than most?

            By the way, I absolutely love how you end each of your rants. It’s like a mix between a drunk James Bond villain and a professional wrestler. Keep it up! It’s wildly entertaining!

          • John Daly

            Now THAT’s funny. It’s like Matlock fan fiction… without any identifiable logic or coherence. Maybe next time, you can deduct that I choose the topics for my columns based on a calculated strategy to conceal that my true birthplace is Kenya. You’re really outdoing yourself today, man. Nice work.

  • GlenFS

    Good ideas. I hope they’re listening!