the absurd observers

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Marketing America

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In his argument that America's imagine in the world will be more shaped by America's actions rather than "branding", Fred Kaplan, identifies a number of problems with trying to create the idea of America. He mentions that during the cold war we broadcast radio shows into the USSR and exposed people to jazz music and talk shows, but he contends that now that tactic would be less successful:
Today, an official American image, even a well-crafted one, would have to
compete with a vast array of newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasts and, most
crucially, satellite TV networks—some state-sponsored, some independent—that
have a much better idea of what appeals to their viewers than we do.

Kaplan's point: America's actions create anti-American sentiment. He thinks advertising only sells sellable products:
...not even Bill Cosby's endorsement could overwhelm the wide consensus that
the New Coke was swill.

However, I disagree.
Spinning current policies is easier than developing new policies. Pleasing everyone is harder than fooling people into thinking they are pleased. Sure, it may be difficult, and others may have a better idea of what appeals to viewers, but how is that a problem? Hire those people. Fire the think tankers and bring in the people that put together the marketing team behind Michael Jordan. It wasn't the shoes that made people buy Air Jordans. It was the songs, it was Spike Lee, and it was the marketing concept that made people believe that shoes could make their dreams come true, or at least make them look cool.

Use America's marketing resources. Pop-culture, fast food, sports, etc. Sneak subliminal messages into Friends reruns and little American flags into KFC's popcorn chicken. Cosby couldn't sell New Coke, but people eat tofu because hippies market it as cool. Package the American dream as it was packaged many years ago to attract immigrants. Package the American sense of nobility as it is packaged every election period.

Most Americans have trouble comprehending what fuels anti-American sentiment. Most of us also have trouble articulating what makes something cool. Why not take advantage of the world's embrace of ambiguous concepts and market America as cool?

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