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sábado, 11 de febrero de 2017
What Justin Trudeau’s Remarkable Rise Teaches Us About the Future of Political Marketing
Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image, because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be.” — Marshall McLuhan
As a marketer and as a Canadian ex-pat, I have watched with some interest as Justin Trudeau’s honeymoon with the Canadian public has extended to a global audience. His reception in Manila during the recent APEC Summit is telling:
For Canadians, young Trudeau’s rise is nothing short of remarkable. As the son of Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s most influential Prime Minister whose influence spanned three decades (1968–1984), Justin Trudeau was born and raised in the public-eye. Despite this name recognition, his success as a politician was never guaranteed.
First, Canada is not a country of political dynasties. Second, Trudeau followed an unconventional path to Parliament Hill. Rather than studying law or entering business, Trudeau worked as a ski instructor and a teacher before entering politics.
Once elected, Trudeau developed a certain habit of putting his foot in this mouth. His political opponents did much to develop a narrative that portrayed Trudeau as all style and no-substance, a strategy that seemed to work well until it didn’t.
During his election campaign Trudeau made a number of key decisions which allowed him to portray the governing Conservative Party as tired, mean-spirited and increasingly at odds with traditional Canadian values. Since then, what has most impressed is Justin Trudeau’s ability to create powerful moments that contain massive viral potential. If the pre-Trudeau era was defined by the photo-op, the post-Trudeau era will be defined by the art of creating moments that penetrate both traditional and social media. Allow me to demonstrate.
The morning after his colosal election victory Justin Trudeau showed up at his local metro (subway) station in Montreal to thank voters.
If the press was briefed prior to his arrival, it appears only a few members of the media were made aware. Instead, Trudeau’s team counted on the fact that members of the public, surprised by the appearance of their new Prime Minister shaking hands with strangers during their otherwise normal commute, would quickly spread throughout social media. As opposed to Steven Harper, who often seemed unapproachable and aloof, Trudeau is warm and charismatic. Noticeable is the absence of both a tie and a security detail.
For his swearing-in ceremony Trudeau´s team planned a similar event.
Taking advantage of a moment often over looked by politicians, Trudeau’s team had the Prime Minister arrive to his swearing-in ceremony on foot followed by his ethnically diverse and gender equal cabinet. Encouraging the public to participate, team Trudeau set up televisions on the grounds where the swearing-in ceremony was to take place, allowing people to congregate, linger and interact with the media. The goodwill harnessed from the walkabout extended throughout the coverage of the activities that followed.
Finally, on December 11th 2015, Justin Trudeau staged his most impactful moment yet. Together with Kathleen Wynne, the first female Premier of Canada’s largest province and Canada’s first openly gay Premier, Trudeau arrived at 3am to Pearson International Airport in Toronto to welcome the first Syrian refugees to be brought to Canada under his government´s ambitious plan to resettle 30,000 individuals by March. He spoke with a family, gifted them winter coats, and used the moment to reinforce his position. “They have arrived as refugees,” he said, “and today they leave as permanent residents of Canada.” “You are home.”
Whereas much of the global debate around Syrian refugees has been dominated by voices of the far-right, Trudeau made himself a hero across the globe by becoming the voice for those who seek a compassionate treatment for the victims of Syria´s proxy war. Whereas Donald Trump wins headlines for awakening demagoguery from its slumber, Trudeau defies fear to become the leader of the counter-narrative, and in the process he moves from Canadian superstar to global superstar.
Justin Trudeau would have learned from watching his father that the quality of a politician’s decisions are only as impactful as the presentation of those decisions. Though Trudeau’s judgement early on in his mandate has proven to be strong, a big part of his success is managing the creation of powerful and impactful moments.
If images speak a thousand words moments can speak a million words as they weave their way through analogue and traditional media, pushed forward by national and international audiences searching for a voice of hope in a choir of hate.
Finally, the consequence of the virality of Trudeau’s moments impact not only the politician but Canada’s standing in the world. For almost 10 years Canada’s Conservative government attempted to lower Canadians’ expectations with regards to the country’s potential influence on the global stage. Canadians were told that middle-powers had no place in a multi-polar world, and that we would have to be a BRIC to sway world events. During this period Canada’s government traded it’s traditional even-handed approach for a more belligerent tone with nations such as Iran and Palestine, whilst staying quite on human rights abuses in places such as Saudi Arabia.
After only two months in power, Trudeau can confidently say “Canada is back” as he assumes global leadership in defending the humanity of Syria’s refugees. Every moment he creates on the international stage Trudeau feeds the narrative that Canada, despite it’s modest population, can still influence world events.
Though he may not be the intelectual heavy-weight nor the wordsmith his father was, Justin Trudeau understands something far more powerful in an age of second-screens where we both consume media and are the media. Justin Trudeau understands the power of moments, and in the process of creating and manipulating moments he is re-defining the way politics is done. Politicians and image makers across the globe would do well to pay attention to his remarkable rise.