This week the Sydney Morning Herald ran a feature on marketing strategies and then two days later there was a story on Tony Abbott’s Ironman endeavours. How are these related and what does it have to do with Degrassi? Read on, intrepid Overlanders.
It’s a widely recognised fact that each generation is more media and marketing savvy than the last. For example: if my great uncle Ernie sees an ad for hair-regrowth treatment, featuring a guy in a lab coat pointing to a graphic showing arrows shooting off a scalp at odd angles, he’s likely to think ‘That chap’s a scientist, he knows his stuff!’
If my Dad sees the same advertisement (unlikely, as he only watches the ABC) he would probably be a little less trusting, but maybe think there is a chance the product could work. (He wouldn’t buy it though, because he knows baldness is more aerodynamic, and that kind of thing is important to a lot of men.) If my brother were to see the ad he would assume the guy in the lab coat is a model-turned-actor who probably has a single out on iTunes and wouldn’t give the product another thought.
The point is: generations X and Y – children of the material, capitalist world of today – know that everyone is out to sell something. They know this from the amount of Happy Meals they’ve eaten and from that song by the Zit Remedy in Degrassi Junior High, Everybody Wants Something. Which brings us, in an odd way, to Tony Abbott and his Ironman preoccupation.
To bring Tony Abbott and Degrassi together, we firstly have to look at the theme of recent media coverage of Mr Abbott. If you were lucky enough to miss the full colour photos, the leader of the opposition competed in an Ironman competition. A lot of opposition ministers have helpfully pointed out that if Mr Abbott spends all his time trying to be a bloke on a Nutri-Grain commercial, he’s not going to have any time left over to run the country. They have been telling anyone with a microphone that he has no policies. This may or may not be true, I have averted my attention from Mr Abbott in the same way my mum told me that if you ignore the kid in class who continually flicks elastic bands at you he might go away. (Tony himself is trying a similar tactic re climate change, coincidently.) But what my generation Y marketing savvy subconscious is telling me is that it isn’t about policy – policy has very little to do with elections – it’s about selling a product.
In his book Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and how to take advantage of it) William Poundstone explains how physiological theory shapes marketing:
Up until the 1970s, economic models typically assumed people were perfectly rational and well informed, it is only with the rise of behavioural economics that we discovered this wasn’t so. Behavioural economics showed that psychology plays a bigger role in decision making than had previously been thought, that consumers are influenced by the unconscious or the irrational, and are very open to suggestion.
I wonder how many generations it is going to take for the whole population to realise that politicians aren’t selling policies. Just like Dolce & Gabbana isn’t selling clothing. What they are selling is an idea, or a dream, to paraphrase Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. In one store we have Kevin in his suit with his boring haircut and his big words, in the other we have an ‘Ironman’ with few words and a smirk. Whichever Liberal strategist it was that envisaged an Ironman Prime Minister, they obviously have a strong grasp of the behavioural economics theory: last season they were selling the cricket-loving Prime Minister, this season it’s the Ironman. Perhaps next season we’ll have the NRL Prime Minister – that will be a fun campaign.
Thankfully we now have a voting generation who grew up with Snake, Joey and Wheels, and they are passing on the wisdom of The Zit Remedy to their children. These thoughtful individuals listened to the lines:
Everybody wants something / they’ll take your money and never give up
They know that the world is one big marketplace, and just like a model in a lab coat can sell a baldness cure, so too a politician in his togs can sell a political brand.
Problem is, my great uncle Ernie still votes. But for how long? (Insert evil cackle in style of Tony Abbott here.)