I confess to sitting around feeling smug about Donald Trump. That could never happen here, I thought.
But now it has: have a look at the man in this picture: Boris Trump. And like many a clown, he has galvanised a seething discontent to serve his own self-interest – making people like him. How likely do you think it is he will run as the next Conversative Leader (PM in waiting)? How about 100%?
“The thing that really riles people is the fact that, despite their struggling, the rich and powerful are doing better than ever before. Despite the thousand year struggle to create a fairer society, one where the power and wealth and opportunities were shared out relatively equitably, we’re back where we started – a handful of people have it all and the rest have virtually nothing. The average drone, if they’re lucky, might have a JOB. And you know what that spells? Just Over Broke.”
I’m quoting from a great blog by Jim O’Connor here. And Jim lays out the part that marketing/advertising has played in creating inequality. I quote again:
So what has this got to do with marketing?
First of all, the marketing industry brainwashed us into buying stuff we didn’t need, with money we didn’t have, to impress people we didn’t even know or like. This created and sustained the consumer demand which has been fuelling the growth. That growth, in turn, produced the wealth which the rich, the corporations and their political chums then skimmed off.
Previous generations had a clear focus on improving their lot in life. They took to the streets, joined unions and went on strike for better working conditions, more rights and greater power.
What have we been doing? Cruising the aisles in Waitrose for the latest artisan breads, worrying about what lampshades to put in the guest room, bargain hunting for cut price brands at designer outlets, trying to decide whether we’re a Boden type person or more Superdry, checking the latest prices on Easyjet for breaks in Rome, discussing the relative merits of Starbucks vs Caffe Nero, and then posting pictures on Facebook to show the wonderful middle class lifestyle we’ve created for ourselves.
Marketing has not only been the engine of demand – it has also replaced religion as the opium of the people, distracting, duping and doping us while we are slowly being disempowered, over worked and driven into debt. Only now are people, beginning to feel the pinch at last, starting to realise “we’ve been robbed!”
Donald Trump – made by Mad Men
Throughout history smart operators have exploited situations where a flood of rising expectations has produced feelings of mass discontent, frustration and resentment – Wat Tyler, Danton, Robespierre, Lenin, Mao and Hitler, to name but a few.
That’s the situation the world finds itself in right now. And we have a rash of populist leaders capitalising on it – Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen (France’s National Front), Beppe Grillo (Italy’s Five Star Movement), Norbert Hofer (Austrian Freedom Party), Geert Wilders (Dutch Party for Freedom). In recent days Boris Johnson has become more stridently populist and in the Philippines they have just elected a very scary Rodrigo “Rody” Roa Duterte.
Donald Trump is not an isolated wild card, a joker. He’s just the latest in a progressions of demagogues who have hijacked history for their own ends, often with disastrous consequences for the rest of us. And he’s smart. As a star of reality TV, he understands how to play the media and the audience.
If you don’t like him you need to understand why so many others do. That means gaining an awareness of the thousand year process that has shaped the society in which we live today. What’s more, as consumers, we need to wise up about how marketing is creating conditions in which he, and those like him, thrive. Finally, if you work in marketing, I suggest it’s time to ask what kind of a world we are helping to create – how much damage are we doing when we mess with the heads and hearts of our target audience, just to entice them into buying another lip gloss or burger? Instead of more consumer insights let’s have a bit of hindsight and foresight.