08 Dec 2008 Marlboro Didn’t Sell as a Pinko Brand
Project 21 Senior Fellow Deneen Borelli spoke on the future of the conservative movement at the 2008 Restoration Weekend. FrontPage Magazine has now reprinted a transcript of her remarks, along with those of others from the conference.
From Deneen’s remarks:
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Restoration Weekend. I am feeling restored! I don’t know about you. I’m glad to be here among this distinguished panel, and I think it’s very important for us to talk about the future of the conservative movement. And briefly I’m going to describe the reasons I see the recent political defeat and the outline of a strategy that will carry us to victory.
Now, let me state the obvious: we lost, okay? During this past election the conservatives suffered a significant political loss. Not only did Obama win all the states that Kerry and Gore won, he also won the traditional red states like Virginia and North Carolina. Obama won by an electoral landslide, with momentum that carried him with a good number of Senate and House seats. In summary, using a football analogy, it was a rout, and we got rolled!
So, where do conservatives go from here? Let’s start with the good news. I don’t believe the election was a referendum on conservative principles. How could it be when John McCain was the candidate? While McCain is a true American hero, he’s not a conservative. We remember legislation like McCain-Feingold, McCain-Lieberman – I think you know where I’m going with this.
Similarly Obama’s victory was not a referendum for liberalism. Obama won simply because the majority of the America people were mad at the Bush Administration. And, boy, are they going to get the change that they never seen before in their lives!
Now, one major problem is that too many Republican politicians have abandoned the conservative principle of limited government. From a marketing perspective, some of our Republican politicians have muddled the message of the conservative brand.
Since I have more experience in marketing than politics, I view our challenges chiefly from a marketing perspective. To summarize, brand management failed, the conservative market share dropped, and the competition forged ahead.
Now, the conservative brand has been mismanaged from our sales force, Republican elected officials. Over the last eight years we’ve seen an explosion in spending: the expansion of government under Bush’s watch, Ted Stevens from Alaska, the “bridge to nowhere”….
Going back to marketing basics, the success of any brand depends on whether the product or service can successfully deliver on its core attributes, consistency, quality, and also deliver as a feel good for a person to relate to that product.
So, tell me something, how many of you were proud to wear the McCain button? How many of you are happy to get those RNC donation letters in the mail still? Not too many. The bottom line is this, the future of the conservative movement depends on communicating the brand’s key attributes: limited government, national security, and low taxes.
Now, by adhering to these themes through policies and actions, the conservative movement can generate political momentum to win elections. Now, given this fractured state, the conservative brand needs to be reinvented.
First, we need to demand that our Republican politicians communicate these core values. Knowing that once elected, that some officials tend to go to the dark side, and so we need to establish a mechanism for them to enforce these values.
Our conservative leaders need to be reminded that actions have consequences. To ensure compliance we need to establish a grassroots effort of quality control, sticking with the marketing theme.
Individuals can blog, write letters, attend townhall meetings, and report on what our elected officials are doing and saying. And, believe me, elected officials tend to have e-mail alerts that let them know that their name is in the press. They don’t like negative press. So if an elected official claims to be conservative, and they don’t live-up to their words, they should be recalled, just like a defective product.
The conservative movement must also reach new demographics, something that has been mentioned already by some of our panelists. Now, Obama got 67% of the Hispanic vote. He also got 95% of the black vote. Now, this is where an extension of the brand is necessary. Copying the way consumer products are marketed to different groups, the advertising of conservative values need to be tailored to reach new demographic audiences.
Now, unfortunately, many blacks voted for Obama because of his race and not his policies. Now, tragically, Obama’s policies will propagate government dependency in urban communities. His overall message is, “Ask not what you can do for your country, but ask what your country can do for you,” the opposite of John Kennedy’s message.
With all the problems in urban communities — failing schools, single parent households, unemployment, drugs, gangs, big government cannot solve these problems. So to chip away at Obama’s overwhelming popularity, the conservative movement needs a top, down and bottom, up approach.
Now, from the top, conservatives need to communicate the conservative message by, let’s say, a popular, well-known, trusted black leader. Maybe in the entertainment world, sports world, media world. Oprah Winfrey comes to mind, but we all know where Oprah Winfrey stands. And if she would only say, “School choice is great,” can you imagine what a game changer that would be? Someone like Lynn Swann comes to mind.
From the bottom, conservative principles can be communicated through popular mediums which were referenced up here, such as YouTube, videos, music videos. It is a hit means of reaching our younger generation to get them involved, educated and informed about the issues. To this point, there are several popular videos on YouTube right now, where there’s a young Black man, a formal liberal mind you, who raps about the message on the conservative movement. If you’re interested, you can find it on Macho Sauce Productions, and he’s got a really positive message. I’m hoping it’s connecting with the younger generation. And we have Joe the Plumber.
So, in conclusion, despite the recent election and the overwhelming support of demographic groups for Obama, anything is possible. I didn’t think I would be standing up here talking a year ago, so anything is possible.
But I’d like to leave you with this thought. I wonder how many of you know that the Marlboro brand cigarette was formerly marketed towards women, complete with a pink filter. It had a pink filter to match lipstick. Now, in the ’60s the brand was remarketed, totally transformed, with the Marlboro country western theme. Now, ladies, you remember the cowboys – the handsome men, tall, chiseled features. It was the creativity of this vigilant brand management that helped Marlboro maintain its brand identity, its brand loyalty, and the 50% market share that it still has today.
So as we look towards the future of the conservative movement, the brand must be revitalized, and it must be communicated, and we must stay on message with our values: limited government, low taxes, and national security. These are the powerful concepts that can attract newcomers and reinforce brand loyalty.
Marlboro didn’t sell as a pinko brand. There’s a lesson in that.