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Murketing

Written By: - Date published: 4:36 pm, July 14th, 2008 - 18 comments
Categories: brand key - Tags: ,

Gordon Campbell has an interesting take on the political PR we’re seeing from National in his latest Scoop column. In it he quotes Salon talking about the marketing of Red Bull to different niches:

‘ Walker noted that instead of attempting to assert the brand’s identity to a mass market, the manufacturer pursued a strategy of what he calls ‘murketing,’ sponsoring low-key events geared to distinct niches; ask any of these groups what Red Bull is and you’re likely to hear a different answer. By refusing to define Red Bull, advertisers allowed each slice of its overall market to interpret the beverage for itself.”

Instead of Red Bull, think in our country, about John Key. Similarly, National has not marketed its policies or its leader in a direct fashion to the voting public. Key has instead been encouraged to address his message to niche audiences who have carried the debate forwards, by adding spin according to their own aspirations. By ‘murketing’ Key in this value-added way rather than by marketing him, National has been able to turn the ‘Who Is John Key, Really?’ question to its advantage, by allowing all kinds of different people to project onto him their own desires and blueprint for change. The blurrier the Key template the better. In this process, even the criticism helps by making Key’s identity the focal point, and crowding out policy.

While this might be a good way to market a soft drink, I do wonder how Brand Key will be able to reconcile its multiple identities when it is exposed to all of its niche markets at once. Say, for example, in a leaders’ debate.

18 comments on “Murketing”

  1. Greg 1

    John Key is holding back policy for tactical purposes – obviously. But Labour is holding back setting the election date for the same reasons. Until Labour sets the election date why should National release policy? It makes Helen Clark seem a bit hypocritical.

  2. Blar 2

    “Murketing” is a bi-partisan practise. Matthew Hooton raised a great example of this in last week’s SST:

    Labour’s superb “Don’t Put It All At Risk’ advertising campaign in the last few days before the 2005 election, while funded with illegal spending, was more powerful even than National’s iwi/kiwi billboards.

    Just as with Crosby / Texter’s “Are You Thinking What We’re Thinking?’ campaign for the British Tories in 2005, “Don’t Put It All At Risk’ was devoid of content and simply invited voters to define for themselves what they were most afraid of and associate it with Don Brash.

  3. insider 3

    Gordon is getting almost standard-like with his obsession with John Key. His obsession is doing little for his reputation though. Wonder if he is part of the Labour web smear campaign referred to recently that the Standard is definitely not part of?

    [lprent: This site is a program running on a machine. It doesn’t have opinions. Direct your spleen to the person who writes the posts you’re definitely not talking about]

  4. Nick C 4

    Hi Rob

    Key did a tv debate against Michael Cullen in 2005. He destroyed him.

    Hows your work at the EMPU going?

    Kind Regards

    Nick C

    [IrishBill says: Rob? Last time it was Mike. Keep guessing. In the meantime you’re banned for a week.]

  5. Anita 5

    Greg,

    National should want to release their policies; they should be proud of them, they should be sure they’ll get even more support once everyone knows what great policies they have, they should be confident their policy platform will make NZ great.

    The only advantage to Labour of announcing the election date is that we’ll stop complaining that they haven’t.

  6. r0b 6

    “Don’t Put It All At Risk” was devoid of content and simply invited voters to define for themselves what they were most afraid of and associate it with Don Brash.

    What rubbish. Labour led governments have been in power for almost 9 years. It is clear what they stand for and what they have achieved. There is no similarity to the Crosby Textor racist dog whistle (“Are You Thinking What We’re Thinking?”) or Key’s “small target” lack of policy.

    Labour should run the same “Don’t put it all at risk line” again this time. In public Key has promised to keep flagship Labour policies, but I don’t believe him (and I certainly don’t believe those promises will be kept if Bill English rolls him).

  7. Draco TB 7

    John Key is holding back policy for tactical purposes – obviously.

    Yeah, he doesn’t want people to know who he’s going to be selling NZ to until after the election.

    But Labour is holding back setting the election date for the same reasons.

    No, I really don’t think that conclusion can be drawn at all. IMO, Labour is going to set the election date as late as possible to see if Nationals support in the polls drops.

    Until Labour sets the election date why should National release policy?

    So that people actually know what they’re National actually intends to do if they get elected but this has been said on this blog and in the MSM several times already.

    It makes Helen Clark seem a bit hypocritical.

    No, it really doesn’t.

  8. Rex Widerstrom 8

    Red Bull are amateurs. An entire beer brand does very well out of ambiguity. And some rather risque imagery.

    I agree it’s not what we want in a political campaign but I come back to a point I made earlier. And that’s that it’s a natural extension of the trend toward “presidential” campaigning which both major parties have strenuously followed in NZ since, I reckon, the advent of MMP.

    The more brands in the market – especially if those brands are peddling stuff that’s pretty much made of similar ingredients – then the more marketers tend to to resort to simplistic ideas like brand personification, in this case around the leader.

    It’s the smaller parties with a clear set of objectives, like the Greens and the Maori Party, who tend to avoid this. A lot of Act’s problems are due to the fact that it could avoid the shenanigans but also thinks it has to play the game to get noticed. And NZF… well, enough said.

    In fairness to Key, the tactic works. And if it works, he’d be silly not to use it. Labour use a different version of the same tactic, with airbrushed photos of the leader and her personal pledge to the voters.

    I wish it didn’t work, but it does. As none other than Matthew Hooten perceptively pointed out this weekend: “Political junkies like me, Chris Trotter and you, as a reader of these columns, don?t ultimately decide elections. Those reading the Hollywood pages this morning are the people who count.” And for those people, a nice bland smiley Mr Key vs a firm decisive Ms Clark are just the sort of simple minded caricatures that make voting so much simpler.

  9. Ari 9

    “Murketing’ is a bi-partisan practise. Matthew Hooton raised a great example of this in last week’s SST:

    Labour’s superb “Don’t Put It All At Risk’ advertising campaign in the last few days before the 2005 election, while funded with illegal spending, was more powerful even than National’s iwi/kiwi billboards.

    And some of us dislike it just as much when the Red crowd do it as when the Blue crowd do. What’s your point? At least Labour has other tricks up its sleeves, too.

  10. vto 10

    Often on this site, and others, there is a whiff of arrogance.

    “Those reading the Hollywood pages this morning are the people who count.” … together with this obsession about Key’s campaign.

    with the attendant assumptions that those who read Hollywood pages don’t know about life and what affects them and are incapable therefore of making the right decisions for them and their families.

    Brave, very brave..

    [“Those reading the Hollywood pages this morning are the people who count.”… That’s a Matthew Hooton quote from his column on Sunday, and I think it’s appalling. SP]

  11. vto 11

    And how about Ari up there “At least Labour has other tricks up its sleeves, too.”

    We all know, including all those Hollywood page readers, Clark and Cullen have some devious last minute ploy to pull out. just like last time. About $1billion worth or some such obscene number set aside in the budget (which seriously gets my blood boiling).

    Be ready to be called out on the double-standards and hypocrisy that will WITHOUT DOUBT arrive soon enough. What’s that saying about those who live in glass houses?

  12. Blar 12

    “What’s your point?”

    My point is that it is bi-partisan you tard. Gordon Campbell’s breathless article carries the implication that ‘murketing’ is a new, deceptive tactic. Anyone remember New Zealand the way you want it? Or how about It’s Time? Two fantastic examples of murketing that long pre-date Red Bull.

  13. RedLogix 13

    Blar,

    You are using the word ‘murketing’ in completely the wrong way.

    Try reading the original post again.

    [lprent: I assume you weren’t deliberately doing an identity snatch, and just had a typo. Changed the name from the first word of the comment to your usual handle]

  14. Rex Widerstrom 14

    vto, I’m sorry if it offends you but I do tend to agree with Hooten on that point. Maybe that does make me arrogant. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’d been described as such.

    ABC’s marvellous “The Chaser” series used to regularly do a quick segment called “This person votes” (a few examples here though they happen to all be of young people, which isn’t representative of the overall segment).

    In fact a well-known left wing blog has begun highlighting the apparent stupidity of some people who vote for (or at least support) the right.

    Some people are stupid (and readership of the Hollywood pages is a fairly reliable indicator thereof 😉 ). Many are uninterested and thus ill-informed. They’re the ‘stars’ of the “This person votes” segment and it’s arguable whether they deserve the franchise (not that I’m arguing it ought to be removed!).

    Then there are those who’ve decided on National purely as a “not Labour” option with no thought to what they may or may not be offering. And those who will admit no fault with Labour when clearly there are many.

    The greatest number of the disengaged however are, I suspect, just fed up with politics in NZ and have switched off. They’re not stupid, they just don’t believe politics offers answers any more.

    Doesn’t leave many who are weighing up all the information they can find, sifting it for bias and trying to reach an informed decision, really…

  15. jbc 15

    Rex, you hit the nail with your Chaser (fantastic btw) and Hooten observations.

    These are the same voters that those 90’s Telecom ads were pitched at. They see cute meerkats on the telly and decide to change their toll provider.

    I’ll admit that I’m one of those leaning towards National because they are “not Labour”. This given that my overall sentiment is “a whisker to the left” if the political compass is anything to go by (I reckon it has extremely poor questions).

    Unfortunately there is no party in NZ which comes close to representing me. I’m not a blue-blazer conservative nor am I a socialist. I like some of the Greens/Maori policies but many are show-stoppers. I wouldn’t touch Winston with a barge pole. Nowhere else to go.

  16. Lew 16

    jbc: “These are the same voters that those 90’s Telecom ads were pitched at. They see cute meerkats on the telly and decide to change their toll provider.”

    Mean-spirited nitpick: those ads were aimed at driving consumption, not at switching 🙂

    The bigger issue here is that these people are the norm, not the exception. Folks respond to symbolic manipulation, feelgood advertising campaigns work to reinforce perceptions of quality which people use to justify decisions they’ve made on not-entirely-rational bases. This doesn’t make them stupid – it just makes them imperfectly rational.

    Rex: “Some people are stupid […] and it’s arguable whether they deserve the franchise (not that I’m arguing it ought to be removed!).”

    I’m glad you’ve disclaimed conditional suffrage, but you’re still looking at this in a dangerous sort of way; denigrating a vast majority of the electorate. Yes, you mentioned `some people’ but your test for this is a habit which appeals to `most people’, and jbc’s `meerkat’ example – one of the most successful ad campaigns in NZ history – refers quite clearly to most of the population. Since stupidity is a normative, not an absolute, measurement, then by definition the majority of people can’t be stupid – but they can be non-specialists in politics, since the level of political engagement is a more absolute measure. Looking at this from a rational perspective as someone who is politically aware, why would you discard this vast majority of the electorate? By your own reasoning they still have votes. Woe betide the political party who ignores them.

    I think you make a lot more sense with this statement:

    “The greatest number of the disengaged however are, I suspect, just fed up with politics in NZ and have switched off. They’re not stupid, they just don’t believe politics offers answers any more.”

    The key, then, isn’t to denigrate these imperfectly-rational non-specialist political actors – it’s to foster and encourage them into becoming better informed and therefore making better decisions. If you’re convinced of your ideological rightness, then it follows that by engaging them, you engage them to vote with you, right?

    I’m on record arguing that with a politically disenchanted electorate, trying to engage on rational bases is largely counterproductive. If the electorate is already disillusioned with politics and policy and the business of government it will meet offers of actual nuts-and-bolts policy with suspicion and distrust. The key to engaging people who aren’t willing to engage with politics is to offer them things they want – focussed, clear messages which appeal to their hopes and desires or fears and concerns. Give people something to believe. This is what National are doing so well at present, and what Labour have generally failed to do since 2002, and the core fundamental reason that – despite performing well by almost all rational measures – they’re losing.

    L

  17. mike 17

    “Labour is going to set the election date as late as possible to see if Nationals support in the polls drops.”

    Great plan, the trend of the last 2 years in a gradual move from left to right which has accelerated in the last few months.

    I’m glad more of the media has picked up on the hypocrisy of clark asking for Nat policy when she hasn’t even announced an election.

  18. Paul Robeson 18

    Hi Rob

    Key did a tv debate against Michael Cullen in 2005. He destroyed him.

    Hows your work at the EMPU going?

    Kind Regards

    Nick C

    Let me see that would be a job application for the finance minister job (incidently where I recall Key suggesting we should copy the Irish template and move just off the coast of Europe and get subsidies, which Cullen admirably refuted) not the job of Prime Minister?

    We’ll see. I guess the real thing is that like the Aussie elections where Howard tried to avoid real public debates where ever possible, the Nats are hoping these simply don’t matter any more.

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