There are people who will vote for a politician because he has a pretty face, looks honest or has a good voice. What fires an important section of the electorate is not logic but emotion. Perception, prejudice and superficiality are the new Gods and it is only in recent years that politicians have become conscious of the fact that complicated economic and social policies are not the primary route to votes from an increasingly apathetic and intellectually impenetrable electorate. They need to tap into the electorate’s emotions. They need to SELL.
There are only TEN recognised Emotional Buying Triggers ( EBTs): Ego, Status, Prestige, Greed, Fear of Loss, Pride of Ownership, Ambition, Health, Security and Sex. All selling is based around combinations of these 10 EBTs.
For instance, television car advertisements: Status, Pride of Ownership, Ego. M&S food: Status, Ego, Health. The most powerful EBT is SEX and that is why many advertisements and promotions tap-into it so frequently. Exactly the same rules now apply to persuading the jaded but still-susceptible voter.
Emotionally, there are large blocks of voters to whom politicians cannot sell. These are the individuals who are tied to a particular party by blood and bigotry. ” My father was Labour, his father was Labour etc etc.” If you canvas these people and start talking interest rates, percentages, policies, their eyes glaze over.
When politicians talk of GDP, Fiscal Stimuli, Quantitative Easing, they are not talking to the man in the street, they are addressing Times, Guardian, Independent, Mirror or Telegraph analysts and journalists or they want to direct messages towards bankers, corporate investors or other politicians. The “man in the street” needs blander and more digestible messages – something that he has been conditioned for.
Admittedly, there is a small percentage of voters that does analyse the economic slurry which is discharged by Whitehall and then reported, interpreted and mangled in a variety of ways by a deeply partisan press. Whether the journalist is Labour, Conservative or Liberal, his or her views are as strong as those of the voter who will vote for his Party but only because he has always voted for the Party. Voters read specific newspapers and follow specific journalists, not for reasons of debate but simply for the warm milky comfort of having their own views and opinions reinforced.
In an election, the target is not the die-hard voter – the one who will vote for his party even if the candidate is a cardboard cut-out. The target is the so-called “floating voter”. The sales pitch has to be for him.
So, which buying triggers do the political parties usually attempt to tickle? Security, Fear of Loss, Ambition and Health have always been favourites. Greed is another quite powerful trigger. In the final analysis, our primary concern is not the economy but ourselves. “What’s in it for me?” The BNP is an excellent example of a party which is constantly tapping into Fear of Loss (of our sovereignty and way of life) and Security (the implication that we may somehow be in economic and physical danger from immigrants).
The above buying triggers have been tapped-into for years and apply to all parties. A new “edge” was needed and not surprisingly, it was the emotional buying trigger of SEX – totally overlooked by politicians for many years which suddenly became the prime catalyst.
Let’s face it, most politicians were (and still are) “spuds”. That is to say, ordinary men and women who were obviously chosen for their abilities and not for their looks. Nowadays, that is not enough – especially for the people at the top – the party leaders.
Here in the United Kingdom, Tony Blair was the first politician to present himself as “Political Totty” and surrounded himself with even more totty. Remember Blair’s Babes? Blair had learned the Cult of Personality from Bill Clinton, who some think may have “overworked” the “boyish good looks” angle. The result, as we all know, was public disgrace and a dry-cleaning bill.
Much of Tony Blair’s appeal was superficial – the slim good looks, the ready smile, the Bambi eyes etc. You may have noticed that when he appeared before the Chilcot Committee a couple of weeks ago, the soft-blush bloom of youth had faded and much of his appeal had dissipated. Consequently (and possibly unfairly) we were pre-judging his words because there were no buying triggers left for him to tap-into.
There is little doubt that Gordon Brown is also going to attempt to tap-into our most basic EBT. His appearance on the Piers Morgan programme was designed to let us see Brown as a “bit of a lad” who had finally settled down and in spite of the setbacks and personal tragedies, has immersed himself into a loving family relationship with a handsome woman who dotes on him. Hey, that’s sexy.
Setting aside Morgan’s “lêche-cul” style of interviewing, the editing, tempo and content produced a superficial but morbidly interesting piece of television. The Ill-tempered, chaotic, gauche Billy-no-mates was airbrushed before our very eyes into a deep, emotional, loving, modest man who will work for charity when he finally retires from politics. Celebrity Mr and Mrs cannot be too far away.
Rumour has it that the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron is being advised by friend and confidant, Octavius Black who, in spite of a moneyed background and public school education, is quite street-wise. That is good because in order to cement his voter-appeal, Cameron needs to lose the off-duty Barbour image and gently pull his wife more and more into the limelight. His media advisers are probably already talking to ITV and BBC with the usual demands for “balance” (equal air time).
The one-on-one interview must sound appealing to the Cameron camp but they should beware of comparisons with Brown and they certainly should not accede to any requests from Piers Morgan. Cameron must start by tempering his behaviour at the Dispatch Box because the nation now sees Brown as a cuddly old Badger who is doing his very best and who, although occasionally tetchy, seems quite trustworthy and competent. The last thing that they want to witness is the unedifying spectacle of a Mr Toad tearing down the hill, making lots of noise and being an all-round pain-in-the-a**e.
Who said “This is not about personalities.” ?
Oh yes it is. Octavius – it’s over to you.