Sarah Palin: crafting the brand offline
Politics aside, this election cycle has seen an interesting development when Sarah Palin came into the fray.
In a very saturated media market, the Republicans did something interesting. They hoisted a completely unknown brand on the country with the pick of Sarah Palin. And yes, politicians are now brands. The goal is to get people to associate a positive element with the person, “McCain Maverick”, “Obama – Hope, Change, New”. Incidentally, the McCain brand was a lot more established than Obama’s, so there isn’t one word that jumps out.
What’s amazing about the manner in which the McCain campaign launched the brand, was how little research they appear to have done about how things happen online. First of all, they possibly sent someone to update the Wikipedia entry for Sarah Palin.
Wikipedia quickly froze the page, meaning most people’s first look at the page had the effect of being uncorroborated.
And like the Wikipedia entry, where people are literally framing her positions, operatives for the party are telling her all of her positions as we speak (so as not to get another Freddie or Fannie-like comment. This is a process that has been going on from the moment she was picked. This isn’t a knock on her abilities, but there is no evidence, in the public record, that she has an opinion on foreign policy or national domestic policy. They are molding the brand in the same manner that they molded the Wikipedia entry.
But this is an era of enhanced digital storage. Thus, when the McCain camp positions her as a maverick that stopped the Bridge to Nowhere, it was thinking that most people wouldn’t do the background work to get the details right. The problem here is that most people need only to Google “Palin: Bridge to Nowhere” to see this:
We no longer live in an age where we depend on reporters to uncover things. When people say one thing, and then say something entirely opposite a few months later, a record of that first thing that is easily found.
Over the next days of the election, people on both sides will push and pull the narrative in all different ways. The Palin brand will be forged by the Republicans, and the Democrats will counter the brand and try to create one that’s different.
And the things that are recorded on the internet, for just about anyone to Google, will be the facts that help both sides. It will be fascinating to watch.