Three Branding and Labeling Lessons From ‘Obama’s Scandals’

AP. IRS. Benghazi. Rather than jumping into the heated battle of competing narratives about Obama’s three “scandals” or ignoring this high-stakes story, follow it for insights on how to influence by labeling. Notice, for example, how the “scandal” label has stuck and even been repeated by Obama’s supporters? That’s the power of labeling soon and repeatedly, even spurring variations such as scandal-mania and tying other stories to the “Obama scandals” anchor, thus pulling down his reputation.

Seize the opportunity to follow the ongoing coverage as a free primer on the priceless power of a winning label. Whether you are selling, serving, advocating or courting, try this formula for winning hearts and minds:

Compared to What? Create a S.E.A. Change to Influence Others

Evoke these three elements for crafting the label that sways others:

S. Securely Tied Together

Connect your message to a specific character trait or kind of situation that can color others’ perceptions by evoking a specific feeling.

E. Easiest to Picture 

Craft an instantly vivid mental picture that sticks in their minds like earworm songs they can’t stop hearing.

A. Already Familiar Idea

Piggyback your message on top of a well-known incident and/or person. You know you have an advantageous head start over those who are still when we are already running or driving. Similarly, if your characterization builds on something that’s already higher in their mind or memory than your opponents’ messages, then yours is likely to travel faster and farther.

Real Life Examples of  S.E.A Change in the Media Stories about the “Scandals”

Securely Tied Together

• When charactering the impact of Jon Stewart’s blistering criticism on The Daily Show, Salon political reporter, Alex Seitz-Wald, dubbed it Obama’s Cronkite moment. That is, “one of the most famed moments in broadcasting, when CBS News legend Walter Cronkite delivered an editorial opinion after the Tet Offensive in February 1968 saying, ‘It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.’

Apparently watching at the White House, President Johnson, who had lost the left long ago, reportedly turned to an aide and said, ‘If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.’”

• “Scandal reduction surgery” does double duty in labeling when Politico’s Glenn Thrush and Jennifer Epstein use it to label Obama’s two press conferences this week. They compared the situation to a medical need and reinforced the “scandal” label as a central part of the anti-Obama narrative. To alter a common saying, familiarity breeds acceptance, adoption and variations on the theme, such as “scandal sickness.”

• Right leaning The American Spectator’s alliterative headline, From Bimbos to Benghazi ties together two situations, the core point of their commentary, that “…the tactics used to smear Bill Clinton’s women — his ‘bimbo eruptions’ as the phrase of the day went — are now being wheeled out to deal with Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi whistleblowers.” Peggy Noonan also uses alliterative labeling: “The reputation of the Obama White House has, among conservatives, gone from sketchy to sinister.”

Easiest to Picture

• “This is the final brick in the wall against a primary of any credibility,” said Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton, told Forbes columnist Howard Fineman.

• “That’s the main lesson from this latest mess: the federal government is an untamable beast,” wrote Reason’s Steven Greenhut. Hint: Specificity makes a label stickier. Instead of “beast” Greenhut might have written tiger, oct0pus or gorilla. Read the rest of the column at Forbes.

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