Warning: Bad Is Stronger Than Good But It’s Terrible For Running A Country

A few days ago I promised to start working out some positioning statements for OWS (and progressives in general). The point I made was that the right wing has staked out some excellent (although also horrible in practice) positions such as “taxes are bad” and “government is bad.”

I argued that these are great positions from a marketing perspective because they focus on “bad” instead of good (taking advantage of “bad is stronger than good“). “Bad is stronger than good” is an important concept from a marketing standpoint, but there is a counterpoint. As Simone Weil observed,

Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.

I ran across this quote yesterday, in Gretchen Rubin‘s The Happiness Project, and it made me realize there are two sides to the “Bad is stronger than Good” meme. While “bad” is useful for marketing, “good” is boring as a marketing message but much better for governing. This is to a large degree the source of the GOP’s big problems, that are just getting bigger – their positions are fundamentally destructive and “gloomy and boring” – they can only take stuff away from us, not create stuff for us. And it points out a critical thing we need to keep in mind as we craft new, stronger positions for progressive policies. Our challenge as progressives is to come up with strong positions – which means they need to reflect the fact that bad is stronger than good, as well as other marketing basics – that also allow us to do effective governing.

Politics is (Marketing) Warfare – Jim Mintz Seems To Be The Only One Who Knows This In The Blogosphere

I found Jim Mintz’s site Marketing In The Public Sector via a search for “Marketing Warfare politics,” thinking that there would actually be some conversations on the web about how Trout and Ries’ powerful marketing ideas – as expressed in Positioning and Marketing Warfare – can apply to politics. Not much came up, I’m sorry to say, except for Mintz. He’s Canadian, so you have to expect pithy and to-the-point comments like the one below:

Bye bye, Miss American Pie « Marketing in the Public Sector

Just got back from vacation and spent a fair bit of time listening and watching the US news. I have always been a tremendous admirer of the
USA. I love their entrepreneurship and as a marketer have always loved
the  marketing that comes out of the USA.  So it with great sadness that
I see a great nation losing some of its luster for reasons (i.e. the
debt ceiling) that are baffling.

Why does a country that produces the greatest business persons,
entrepreneurs, scientists, entertainers’ athletes etc. produce such
mediocre politicians?

Well, we do have other mediocre stuff here, it must be admitted (e.g., see the Plymouth Aztek), but in general the good seems to drive out the bad – except in politics.

And I hypothesize that a lot of this comes down to extremely sucky marketing – well, not understanding marketing at all, especially the strategic kind of marketing – positioning, and “marketing warfare” – that Trout and Ries covered so well.

In fact, the lack of good marketing except from the extreme
right wing of American politics has contributed in large part to
America’s current level of dysfunction. They’re the only ones telling a
compelling story, but unfortunately it seems to be disconnected from
reality in a significant way. And no one else has a articulated anything
coherent, even though their positions are much more aligned with
reality. But they don’t know how to do marketing, so that’s the
inevitable result.

I’m looking forward to following Jim’s thoughts in the future.

Link: Bye bye, Miss American Pie « Marketing in the Public Sector