The dark side of Branding | An overview of a disturbing polarity in politics
Are you wondering why it is so hard to keep a decent and balanced discussion in politics? Why is it that candidates who seems to be “balanced” are almost never elected? Why does everything come down to an only-two-sides-possible analysis?
Here’s my take on it: Branding.
We are all living in an intense political polarization. Things are only getting worse in Brazil since our last presidential elections in 2018. Everything you do, like, share, or talk about becomes an immutable “personal stamp” that has only two sides: the blue far-right one, or the red communist one (ps: i’m not considering republican or democratic parties).
You cannot partially agree with one group or another — you have to buy what I call the “whole package”. If you choose the blue side, for example, you must go against the belief of a global warming, dismiss any LGTB/Feminist/Minority issues, or never consider prosocial politics. On the other hand, choosing the red side obligates you to hate all forms of capitalistic behavior, forbid the word “profit”, loathe religion and go vegan. It is easy to “illustrate” these two personas in your head, isn’t it?
But what about the person who wants to fight for women’s rights but goes against abortion? Some may think that these two ideas are opposites, but I believe not. And in depth discussion of these topics together can go on forever. Let’s save it for later.
Even this pandemic situation is being analysed with the blue/red lens. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro and his voters are claiming that social reclusion is a global leftist strategy that aims to break our economy, create a social crisis and then take power. Or the other side, once you show the slightest worry about the economy or your business health, you are immediately considered an inhumane person that only cares about money.
And how come this is all about Branding?
Branding isn’t just a fancy name for designing logotypes or choosing creative company names. Branding is reputation. Branding is about developing a 360º strategy for how to look, what to say, how to say it…good branding makes a brand good and strong. And you know what’s common between strong brands? They are easy to identify. The goal is to make every small detail automatically trigger the thought of a brand in your mind: from a store smell to a logo color pallet, a package design, a way of writing an email, everything.
And If there is one thing all the most famous Branding books emphasize, is that you need to focus and be extremely direct about your position. That’s because our brain always chooses the easiest path to everything. So, in an ocean of possibilities, content, ads, brands, posts, we will subconsciously try to find an easier path to choose between options — instead of taking time to analyse and balance good and bad points about everything, we need those “stamps” aspects to make the process easier. Yeah, brain laziness.
Today’s “Bolsonaro Brand” is strong because it is extremely objective and direct to the point. They don’t let their voters confused or insecure about their position. Bolsonaro is always saying and doing things in the way that you know is according to his “brand”. You can even look at someone on the street and guess if this person is or isn’t one of his supporters based on his or her “persona” aspects.
“Of course he is acting like this, he is a Bolsonaro supporter…”
Actually, people want to be easily identified as one side or another, but in a deeper way. Different symbols are used to express personal beliefs and behavior. Students using “pro-agrarian reform” or “legalize-it” t-shirts not only want to defend a movement, but also transmit a deeper message: “i’m a good, intellectual and revolutionary person”. Something like this:
I bet you must be thinking: ok, what about we build a strong “in between” brand then?
The dilemma is that, even if do that, we would not only need to define what would be our persona and all our branding strategy, but also turn the “balanced” discussion into a predefined, clear, and almost “inflexible” set of opinions (close to a market positioning) going exactly against a “in between” ideal: a flexible, smart, balanced, democratic discussion.
The sad story is that we are not voting for a party to democratically represent us. We are not analysing, discussing or balancing anything. We simply choose a side and buy the “whole package” that it represents. In the end, the brand that we choose is only used to segregate us in two completely blind sides, without knowing (or on purpose) we are walking around with a big red or blue stamp on our forehead.
I love branding and it surely works. But for politics, it should not.