April 1, 2010Turning your weakness into strength

So, it’s April Fool’s Day. And along with the usual plethora of tech-related pranks (well documented by TechCrunch) this spoof by The Guardian really caught my eye. In my last post, I talked about negative campaigning in politics, and how only a campaign based on hard fact is good enough to go on the attack.

But how do you counter-attack a negative campaign?

The Guardian’s April Fools joke may point us in the right direction.


OK, so it’s an obvious spoof. But the article contains some real wisdom:

Brown aides had worried that his reputation for volatility might torpedo Labour’s hopes of re-election, but recent internal polls suggest that, on the contrary, stories of Brown’s testosterone-fuelled eruptions have been almost entirely responsible for a recent recovery in the party’s popularity. As a result, the aide said, Labour was “going all in”, staking the election on the hope that voters will be drawn to an alpha-male personality who “is prepared to pummel, punch or even headbutt the British economy into a new era of jobs and prosperity”.

The fact is, whatever your political persuasion, you’ve got to admit that Gordon Brown, as Prime Minister, has a serious image problem. Even former PM Tony Blair described him as ‘a clunking fist’ (which, by the way, is an anagram of F***ing Stalin, a fact definitely not lost on Blair). Recent scandals such as Smeargate and rumours of bullying and bad tempered rages have left the general public with the opinion that Brown is a disagreeable, even violent, bully. Although his party has made a comeback in the polls, Brown’s personal approval ratings remain low.

So why not turn a vice into a virtue?

Yes, the Guardian’s pulling our leg. But exactly how do you counter a negative campaign based on facts? Simple. You turn the facts in your favour. You make a virtue out of your vices. The idea that Brown’s a ‘hard man’ willing to ‘pummel, punch or even headbutt’ the British economy into recovery is a great attack line. In one fell swoop this line repositions the argument from ‘good guy’ vs ‘malevolent bully’ to ‘wimp who doesn’t have the strength to lead the country’ vs ‘tough, experienced fighter who’s willing to go to any length for what he believes in’.

People are turned off politics because they don’t think politicians have any conviction any more. A ‘Brown is willing to fight for you’ line might be just the ticket he needs to stay in power.

Of course there are those of us who believe the only thing he’s fighting for is holding on to his own power, but that’s not the point.

An effective negative campaign can be negated by using the same facts
and turning the argument against the attacker.


What implication does this have for branding, marketing and advertising professionals in general? Well, sometimes the ‘no nonsense man’ approach works. John Smith’s ‘no nonsense’ cardboard man and Ronseal’s ‘does what it says on the tin’ campaigns spring immediately to mind.

This ‘no nonsense approach’ is taken to its logical conclusion in this brilliant ad by Rhett and Link for Cullman Liquidation. And no, it’s not an April Fool’s joke. It’s one of the best commercials produced in decades — and a great example of how to get your business noticed by viral video. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re in for a treat:

“So come on down to Cullman Liquidation and get yourself a home… or don’t, I don’t care.”

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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 1st, 2010 at 1:22 pm and is filed under Advertising, Blog, Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One comment

  1. Reid Klos says:

    Ha! Al, I live about an hour north of Cullman in Huntsville, AL and I’m so proud of Alabama right now I don’t know what to say…

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