Barack Obama and the Pitfalls of Fraudulent Branding
Forty years ago, the real life Mad Men knew how badly a brand could be destroyed if they made impossible claims about a product, a lesson that the creators of Barack Obama's image are relearning the hard way.
October 18, 2010 - 12:05 am
If Barack Obama had been a commercial product instead of a political candidate, then he and his brand creators — Axelrod et al. — would be facing one of the most massive class action suits ever to hit any American business.
Branded as the superhero of smarts, Barack Obama would be to American government what Einstein was to science.
Branded as an epochal Lightworker, Barack Obama would be a president whose very life formed a dividing line of history. All things would henceforth be measured in before-Barack and after-Barack metaphors.
Branded as a peacemaker of unprecedented prowess, Barack Obama would usher in the era of worldwide kumbaya, while catching the elusive butterfly of civilization’s perfection in his outstretched hand — all without so much as breaking a fingernail.
Sold to the American public as “sort of God,” marketed as a political savior of such extraordinary intelligence and giftedness that there had simply never been anyone like him, Barack Obama so misrepresented himself that hundreds of pundits are still trying to make sense of what went wrong.
When reality met branding-myth, the whole thing fell apart.
Truth happened, you nitwits.
So, imagine that corporate laws against fraudulent branding applied to political advertising.
Well, if they did, then Barack Obama would prove the quintessential false branding case. There wouldn’t be a law school in the country without a case study of the Barack Obama swindle.
I imagine the lawsuit would be akin to a tobacco liability suit on steroids.
I’m old enough to remember when cigarettes were mass-marketed to consumers via television. One of the most successful cigarette branding campaigns, which ran for years on every station, in every magazine, on billboards and the sides of buses and trains, was that of the Marlboro man.
The Marlboro man was so ubiquitous a presence in America that every man, woman, and child in the 50 states knew him by sight. Rugged, handsome, ever-stalwart and strong, never coughing — that’s for sure — riding his mighty stallion, the Marlboro man was the image of terrific masculine benefits for the cigarette that always hung from his mouth as he lassoed a raging steed. His image was matched by the sleek, always sexy female who had “come a long way, baby” with her Virginia Slims. Needless to say, tobacco companies have been paying ever since for such blatant misrepresentation of their unhealthy product.
Considering all the damage this president has done to our economy, our standing in world affairs, and our ability to protect ourselves from Islamic terrorism, there isn’t a citizen in this nation that couldn’t climb on board any class action suit against his outlandishly fraudulent campaign claims.
Fraudulent advertising is no laughing matter in the business world. There are laws against so blatantly misrepresenting one’s product. In the world of commerce, what’s in the box had better be as it was advertised or you’ll be in a heap of trouble with not only your bamboozled customers, but with every regulatory agency that has a single pencil-pusher.
The dangers of smoking aside, this isn’t all that new of a development. Forty years ago, ad man Jerry Della Femina wrote his legendary look at Madison Avenue in the late 1960s, From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor, which, decades later, would go on to be a primer for the writers of TV’s Mad Men show. (The title refers to a line Della Femina used during a bull session when prepping for one of the first American ads for a Japanese auto manufacturer; that no book made today would have such a title shows you how much political correctness creates epistemic closure.)
As Della Femina wrote of his industry and the customers it serves:
There is a great deal of advertising that’s better than the product. When that happens, all that the good advertising will do is put you out of business faster. There have been cases where the product had to come up to the advertising but when the product fails to do that, the advertiser will eventually run into a lot of trouble.
On the intelligence claims, no proof has ever surfaced that any of the Obama brainiac hoopla was anything other than gratuitous accolades granted via affirmative action and white-liberal racial guilt. No transcripts. No professional articles. Nothing. Nada. From kindergarten through law school, not a single shred of evidence has ever surfaced to show that Barack Obama was ever even a good student, much less the brainy wizard of his advertisers’ imaginations. Since the candidate openly admitted to lots of high-school and college drug use, plenty of hoops-shooting, but nary a blip of organized sports rigor, it’s entirely within the realm of probability that those transcripts have been buried with the same malevolent intent as tobacco companies who deep-sixed their own negative research.
Tsk. Tsk. That would be one mighty big class action suit if politicians had to follow the same credibility rules they set for business.
Then, let’s take those godlike claims. The ones to end the rising of the seas and heal all the sick. Well, anyone who bought that overstuffed load of narcissistic hype is a candidate for the evolutionary throwback pail, but still, it was a heap of fraudulent advertising, the likes of which would put any American business on the bankruptcy auction block in a Chicago minute. The fact that the candidate did nothing to discourage such over-hyping garbage and the fact that he even indulged it to the nth degree would make him lawsuit-fodder in anyone’s book.
Now, it turns out that Barack Obama is far better at the backyard hoops and swinging his nine iron than he is at walking on water. Not only has President Obama failed to over-perform his predecessors in the job, he has under-performed so badly that the only way he can even put forth the pretense that there’s anyone there is to bring on a staff of dozens of unaccountable czars and shift his real responsibilities to them. Disgrace is too mild a word. A great many Americans still like the president but they don’t respect him. As soon as reality hit the branders’ myth, respect started to melt faster than a Yankee candle.
I can’t help thinking these days of that poor, deluded Obama groupie on the campaign trail who honestly believed that her vote for the “sort of God” candidate was going to end all her worries about “paying her mortgage” and “putting gas in her car.” What kind of political shysters sell these kinds of hopes and dreams as though no one will get hurt when the fairy dust turns to salt?
Like those who inhaled the toxic smoke of the Marlboro man, only to find themselves stricken with a slow and painful asphyxiation, Obama voters now queue themselves at the unemployment office and the food stamps office and the welfare office in record numbers. But there isn’t enough “change” to go around. And what most of these folks want is not a handout from their neighbors, but a paycheck and the self-respect that goes with it.
Sadly, those most hurt by Barack Obama’s false advertising were those same black voters who invested so much in his candidacy. Black unemployed numbers dwarf those of their white counterparts. By promising things no mere mortal could ever deliver and jumping into a job for which he was dolefully unprepared, those who loved the symbolic racial victory the most have tragically been the ones most hurt by the Obama lie. Instead of still worshiping this man who bamboozled them, black voters ought to be outraged.
Fraudulent branding of the type we saw ubiquitously displayed for this candidate in 2008 should be the consumer lesson of the century when it comes to buying hyperventilated political claims not backed up with cold, hard evidence of past accomplishment.
Any time a mere mortal puts himself on a pedestal complete with faux Greek columns and the fanfare of a media army who tingle at the mere mention of his name, the only words which ought to sear into the American mind are:
You are about to be bamboozled, swindled, and taken for the most expensive ride you can imagine. Your stupidity will cost you, your children and your grandchildren the farm and every stick on it.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a class action lawsuit that can get you back your country.
There’s only an older and hopefully wiser electorate with the will to take it back one vote at a time.