Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

‘Say No’ to condescending ad campaigns

Posted on October 6, 2014 at 11.16 am

Last week, the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) released a set of ads aimed at young women voting for governor in six states. If you haven’t seen them already, take a moment to watch this representative ad for Arkansas:

As this ad (and its five siblings) began to make internet rounds, it was almost immediately the subject of derision. Viewers noted that the tone was condescending, even sexist. As one typical review said, “Voting is hard, right ladies? Luckily, the College Republican National Committee is here to help put things in terms we’ll understand: wedding dresses.”

Soon, commentators on the right started playing defense. They highlighted a leftwing video put out by Cosmopolitian (yes, the magazine you probably know better as the source of “1000 Crazy Ways to Use a Can Opener in Your Sex Life” articles) in which a young woman parodies a makeup tutorial video while discussing politics. It’s hypocritical, so the arguments went, to criticize the CRNC video while lauding the one from Cosmo.

But as much as I have no love for Cosmo, here’s the key difference between the two: The Cosmo ad actually contains specific facts and policy suggestions. They may be facts we’d like to dispute (like whether or not women are only paid 78 percent of what men are paid) and policy suggestions we’d like to debate (like the effects of the minimum wage), but they’re undeniably there.

The format is silly; but to Cosmo’s credit, it gives the audience specific information they can research and concludes by encouraging the target demographic—young women—to get engaged in politics and not “let other people speak for you.”

But the CRNC videos? Not so much.

Each one offers only the vaguest possible critiques of the candidates they oppose, like suggestions that he’ll bring higher taxes or cause people to lose their jobs.

Ok, that’s scary, CRNC. And you may well be right. But how will this happen? Can you offer any specifics at all?

Because I don’t know about other young women, but pretty dresses are not enough to make me give someone my vote.

The fact that only ten seconds of each minute-long ad is even customized by state (beyond switching out the names) does not bode well. Indeed, I’d suggest that any campaign ad which can be used in six different states with minimal modification is by definition embarrassingly simplistic and condescending. And if that ad is exclusively targeted at young women—and there’s no similarly patronizing ad campaign made for young men—then, yes, it’s also sexist.

Read the whole thing here.

Growing Pains

Posted on October 16, 2013 at 2.40 pm

Q. I grew up a conservative. Most of my friends were liberal, and I’ve always had libertarian tendencies. I used to find common ground with all of them, and much of the time, sway them into a more liberty oriented POV. Have you noticed a more entrenched dynamic over the last 6 or 7 years, in which dialogue has been replaced with emotionality, or is it just me? — zonkedout1, from tumblr.

A. Eh, I tend to think that’s just how most people are.

For what it’s worth, Myers Briggs testing shows that about 60% of people are “feelers” and 40% are “thinkers.” And if you live in America, you’re a resident of one of the most emotional countries in the world. Anecdotally, I’d say this seems to be true: Many people do make decisions — including decisions about politics — based more on how they generally feel about an issue than on specific, logical arguments about it.

But unlike some in the liberty movement, I don’t think this is necessarily a problem.We’re supposed to be supporting liberty because it’s good for people, and the fact that people’s minds often don’t work the way we wish they did isn’t an excuse to write them off.

But it does mean we have something of a communications and marketing challenge. That’s because libertarians in general tend to be more focused on logic than the average person:

Compared to self-identified liberals and conservatives, libertarians showed 1) stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle, and weaker endorsement of all other moral principles; 2) a relatively cerebral as opposed to emotional cognitive style; and 3) lower interdependence and social relatedness.

This is really interesting — and I don’t want to sound like I’m devaluing logic, because I’m all about rational, evidence-based decision-making — but we shouldn’t just accept it as something which is set in stone. It means that in expressing the ideas of liberty, we need to be creative and learn to express our convictions in other people’s language.

This is one area in which I think the liberty movement has a lot to learn from Christianity. The church has made a lot of wrong turns in its attempts to be “relevant,” but it understands an essential need to follow in the apostle Paul’s footsteps when he says:

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

If we really want to win a large audience to the cause of liberty, there comes a point when to the emotional, we must become emotional; and to the logical, we must be logical. For the uninformed, we must learn to simplify; and for the academics we must source all our claims with credible news sources.

Now, not each libertarian has to do all these things. But some of us do — and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a growing pain which every movement must endure.

No girls allowed?

Posted on January 3, 2013 at 2.51 pm

Q. Saw this earlier this morning and thought of you. Had you seen the video in question? What did you think of it? — Ari Kohen, from tumblr.

A. I know Julie (the girl in the video) in real life, but hadn’t watched the clip before today. Julie is great, but in this case I have to disagree with her.

Like some conservatives, some libertarians (Julie apparently included) make the case that women are naturally more inclined to lean left — usually it’s some combo of their apparent greater desire to fit in or their maternal instinct producing a love of social programs. Some go so far as to say that women make their political decisions according to their feelings, not logic (like men), and indeed women “are natural socialists.” Others say we’re inherently collectivist consequentialists who just want to keep those the love safe and well-cared for — “communal utilitarians.”

It’s intriguing to note that both of the examples I just cited come, like Julie’s video, from self-described female libertarians.


Now, we could have a very lengthy discussion about whether or not there is truth in these claims and, if so, if such habits of behavior are truly innate or if they’re simply the product of social conditioning. That may indeed be a valuable discussion for the libertarian community to have, but it’s also a bit beyond the range of this particular post.

(For my purposes here, suffice it to say that I’m not in that camp. This analysis strikes me as antiquated, off-putting, and wrong — not to mention, it’s an ironically sweeping collectivization coming from supposedly individualist libertarians.)

Instead, the suggestion I’d like to make is that even if the most extreme of these claims are true — if women are by nature mandated by their emotion-addled brains to focus only on pragmatic, often collective ways to take care of others — that should not be a barrier to equal representation of women within the liberty movement.

If it is a barrier, then we, not women at large, are the ones doing something wrong. The onus remains on the liberty movement to get women into the fold. (And if I’m right and this analysis is not true, we have the same responsibility, but presumably a less daunting task.)

In short: This is a marketing problem.

We have (I certainly think) great philosophy, noble goals, and fresh ideas for how to achieve those goals. We should be able to communicate that vision to others in an attractive manner.

This isn’t to say that women are less intelligent than men or more easily manipulated by a nice logo design. It is to say that the liberty movement as a whole must get rid of the kind of belittling arguments I mentioned above and learn to present our ideas to women (and indeed all kinds of people) in a persuasive manner:

I once read a forum that posed the question: “Why doesn’t [liberty-inclined candidate] have a larger female base?” The sexist, condescending responses that followed were alienating, even to me, so it isn’t too difficult to deduce how a woman mildly sympathetic to our ideas might feel about the movement once they read something like that. 

Not only is the lack of libertarian women a marketing problem, but a big part of the problem can be found in the very speculations about this issue.

We understand that foreign countries won’t like our country if we bomb them. Why can’t we understand that individual women won’t like our movement if we insult them? This is just another kind of blowback.