COMMENTARY #1: Two-faced Hillary?  The competitive advantages of hypocrisy drive branding as well as politics.  

All election fans have heard from the Wikileaks version of Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street speeches that she advocated having “both a public, and a private, position.”  Her response put the quote in context, that she was referring to Abraham Lincoln’s rhetorical battles with Stephen Douglas, and political battles with just about everybody at that time.

But in his Opinion column entitled, “Why Hillary Clinton Needs to be Two-faced,” Jonathan Rauch rationalizes her comments (and perhaps those of Lincoln) from a standpoint of competitive advantage.  He demonstrates that a politician simply must be two-faced, in order to negotiate treaties, deal with the press, and effectively govern in a bicameral democracy.

Scientia potentia est, knowledge is power, is one of the tenets of brand management.  So, we can consider branding full of reasons for “being two-faced.”  As I was reading Rauch’s piece, I couldn’t help remembering our discussion in my Global Advertising and Public Relations class at NYIT; our discussion about cultural attitudes about consumerism.  That the Japanese, when asked the typical consumer question in a survey, “Would you consider purchasing this product in the next 6 months?” answer in high percentages (60 to 80) that they would, sending American product managers scrambling to move right into full new country distribution, skipping right past test market.

But there’s bad news, and Rauch explains why: Japanese have a thing called “socially constructive lying.”  There is what they really believe; and then there is what they admit in public.  “Unnecessary and excessive directness hurts feelings, foments conflict and complicates coexistence,” states Rauch.   Certainly, responses to a market study (or a telephone poll) or perhaps “running something up the flagpole, and seeing who salutes,” doesn’t provide enough motivation to upset a civilization, or even one’s psyche.

Rauch continues in a more general way, discussing social science findings about shared and public knowledge.  I’m not really talking about the former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s type of knowledge.  He said, “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

It’s more of a question of what you know about what someone else knows, or doesn’t. That’s why knowledge capital, the assets and resources that never show up in a financial report or balance sheet, are truly what makes one organization more competitive than another.  But we rarely want to show the consumer this knowledge capital at close range.  Instead, we want a clean and tidy “brand story,” a CEO who is in touch with not only employees, but consumers as well.  No one has to see labor-management tensions and contract negotiations, nor pricing discussions that have nothing to do with cost-plus, but more about how much we can squeeze from the market.  All the sausage making.

And when it comes to producing advertising whose claims are reasonable, a little two-facedness comes in handy there, as well.  In my days advertising Krugerrands, at DDB, to inflation-battling individual investors, we did the running up the flagpole thing: we sent advertising copy to the SEC’s legal department prior to production, asking them to tell us if they would issue a cease-and-desist if it ran.  Who wants consumers to share that knowledge?  Let them enjoy the sausage.

Source article: Rauch, J. (2016, October 23).  Why Hillary Clinton Needs to Be Two-Faced.  New York Times, Week in Review, 3.



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