Score so far in this game of clever marketing that Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is playing on the Filipino people — three. As in three catchy slogans that have so far proven to be effective in its stickiness to the Filipino psyche:
- Use of the Yellow pedigree platform and its symbols — the “L” hand gesture, Laban rhetoric and, of course, the colour yellow — during the campaign;
- Putting up of the kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap (“no corruption equals no poverty”) catch phrase to represent his cornerstone strategy upon ascent to his office in Malacanang; and,
- Coining of the wang-wang (literally “police siren”) metaphor in the recent SONA as an encapsulation of the culture of impunity that infects Philippine society.
On the merits of the above, the Second Aquino presidency will go down in history as a brand marketer’s case study of catchy persuasion hooks used on a people starved for meaning as they scratch out a chronically wretched existence. A few other historical figures easily come to mind in this Hall of Fame of empty-symbols-driven style of leadership. I’ll leave it up to the reader to name a few.
Note how the following propaganda techniques were respectively used so far over the last 12 months of Aquino’s MalacaÃ±ang:
Transfer: In this technique, an attempt is made to transfer the prestige of a positive symbol to a person or an idea. For example, using the American flag as a backdrop for a political event makes the implication that the event is patriotic in the best interest of the U.S.
Faulty Cause and Effect: This technique suggests that because B follows A, A must cause B. Remember, just because two events or two sets of data are related does not necessarily mean that one caused the other to happen. It is important to evaluate data carefully before jumping to a wrong conclusion.
Either/or fallacy: This technique is also called “black-and-white thinking” because only two choices are given. You are either for something or against it; there is no middle ground or shades of gray. It is used to polarize issues, and negates all attempts to find a common ground.
And while we are at it, let us cite the persuasion device at work in Aquino’s quaint persistent use of the Tagalog dialect in his public “speeches”…
Plain Folks: This technique uses a folksy approach to convince us to support someone or something. These ads depict people with ordinary looks doing ordinary activities.
We will note that the above Plain Folks is also the technique he applies in his insistence of not using motorcades when traveling by land to and from his office in MalacaÃ±ang. Quite effective it has so far proven as it continues to be his saving grace today (thanks to his many apologists in Media) even as the lack of substance in the positions he takes and claims he makes on most things pertinent to steering the country towards prosperity becomes more and more evident.
Indeed, the fact that use of the Tagalog dialect seems sufficient to articulate the President’s views speaks of the intellectual payload of much of these views. As I wrote way back, the English language — and not the Tagalog dialect — holds the key to a rich world of knowledge and insight that can potentially be literally at the fingertips of most Filipinos today…
Command of English provides instant access to a vast knowledgebase accumulated by the English-speaking world over the last 200 years. It is a knowledgebase to which knowledge is relentlessly being added at an ever increasing rate — far faster than our Tagalog-articulated knowledgebase is being augmented by both original material and translated material. Considering the English-proficient Philippine elite’s mastery over the language of this knowledgebase, it’s the old concept of the rich-get-richer-while-the-poor-get-poorer gone ballistic!
Many “cause-oriented” groups trumpet the practicality of the Tagalog language as a key ingredient for progress and nationalism. Yet they fail to provide any solutions to the dearth of knowledge material to lift Philippine society out of its intellectual bankruptcy. Are we going to continue denying the poor basic access to what the elites of Philippine society already monopolise — a monopoly they use to further their dominance over the dynamism of our society that all Filipinos are entitled to?
Taking the above into consideration, what does all of this amount to, basically? Just one very basic principle that has so far proven quite applicable and wielded shrewdly by the communication team of MalacaÃ±ang:
Dumb down the message.
Dumb it down, shield it from critical thinking, and hook mere sympathy from the audience for an imagined â€œcauseâ€ by encapsulating it in slogans, catch phrases, and meaningless symbols. It’s a good survival strategy for an administration that has so far been unable to demonstrate an ability to give direction to the nation.