“Propaganda is communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position. As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda.”
If we were to change a few words at the end of the sentence, it would read as follows:
“…messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a product / company agenda.”
Could we say that the fine line between branding and propaganda is really very fine?
Let me give you 3 examples that come to mind.
Let’s start with Nazism.
How did Hitler convince one of the most educated people of the western world that his “Kampf” made sense? Germans indulged, or at least closed their eyes as their country went on a crusade; to invade neighbors, literally annihilate cultures and build the most successful killing machine in the history of mankind.
Well, you can say Goebbels was the most masterful CMO ever. He embedded the Nazi brand in consumers and non-consumers of Hitler’s ideas.
I’m sure, that there was a very thick book of guidelines to create all the posters, banners, pamphlets and other elements used at every single demonstration (check the book Iron Fists by Steve Heller). I can guarantee you that there was a copy deck that enabled a consistent publication of schoolbooks, brochures and other printed material. I can tell you, with a degree of certainty, that an image library was supplied a few times a year with photos carefully pre-produced for communication purposes.
Now let’s go to the island of Cuba.
How come starving Cubans deprived of their basic right to speak are loyal to Castro? It’s not like he had magnificent armies to back him up. He didn’t fall from power even when the values he represented crumbled together with the Berlin wall.
The answer is that Castro is a masterful marketer, and that he has been using branding as his secret weapon for half a century. From the famous photo of Che, to his very distinctive beard and fatigues, Castro built his brand using symbols, icons and consistent verbiage.
How about China?
How come foreigners show more curiosity and admiration for the reconstructed Forbidden City than Chinese youth?
Today, visitors are surprised when they know that the forbidden city is just a reconstruction and that the original building was destroyed. And even more surprised, when the same guide thinks that a massive condominium in such a privileged location will serve the people of China better than a wasteful tourist attraction. Chairman Mao knew what he was doing when he systematically erased the past with his cultural revolution.
And last but not least…. Islamic Jihad.
How come that in this nation of billions, every day, an increasing number of people of the most diverse socio-economic levels become convinced that all infidels must die? The danger of Islamic Fundamentalism lies not in the sporadic terrorist attacks, but in the careful 360°media strategy designed to sell a dark side of the Koran to a broad group of eager consumers that are not being forced to believe at gunpoint. A strategy whose target audience is as diverse as the homeless kids in the streets of Gaza, the Taliban clans in the mountains of Afghanistan, the middle class students in the schools of Europe and, most important, the Western media. The idea of another barbaric war in the name of God is being masterfully sold.
You might say that all regimes use propaganda, and I believe they all do, but only some can attribute their success to the masterfully branding of their ideas.
I am not talking about Chaves and his pockets full of oil money to spread around, because I am pretty sure that when his money finishes, so will he.
I am not talking about the crusades that created a hidden subculture of not so strongly convinced converts.
I am not talking about Sadam Hussein or Kim Jong-Il, whose ideas have been imposed by force and oppression.
I am talking about a systematic and consistent effort designed to sell something to somebody. Whether the audience was the well-educated Germans, the happy-go-lucky street smarts in Havana, or the millions of Muslims. All of them bought something that was sold to them.
Propaganda is more than political advertising. Propaganda is a communication strategy, with a long-term goal to build a perception, consistently using signs and messaging across all media . If that is not branding, please tell me what it is.
*Branding, like science, can serve wonderful purposes, but it can also be a dangerous tool in the hands of the wrong masters.*
If you are interested in this issue, please take the time to watch these videos from Steve Heller. A much more versed person than me. They are really worth your time
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