This ad exec's speech titled "Loyalty Beyond Reason" came back to me after reading the New York Times story about the kept military news analysts, detailing how the Bush administration cultivated supposed experts to support its Iraq policies. The effort was reasonably successful in countering critical news reports and building domestic support for the early stages of the war.
The administration has been reasonably sophisticated in its campaign to create loyalty beyond reason, but ultimately, it's tough maintain mass brand loyalty to a terrible product — especially when you fail to recognize differences between international and domestic markets.
Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, gave his presentation to members of various U.S. defense intelligence agencies back in 2005. The first half is a stock ad guy speech, containing his firm's particular version of whatever superficial wisdom is current in the business.
Full of fake profundity. In a breezy style. Lightly tailored for the audience.
Like ad copy.
I’m going to show you how we create emotional connections with consumers, and how we inspire Loyalty Beyond Reason. The holy grail for marketers.
Roberts says that while reason leads to conclusions, emotion leads to action.
Using emotion instead of reason is a big, transformational idea, no matter what the problem is. From the biggest moral issue to the world of breakfast cereals. Emotion works.
Even if your problem is selling Brand America.
Most of the speech could be given verbatim at any new business pitch where the leader is brought in to present a few Deep Thoughts to set up the Big Ideas from the creative team. But once you get past that, Roberts actually offers some sound advice.
The War on Terror, he says, is fundamentally wrong.
Every time we refer to Terror, we invest in the presence and even the legitimacy of our enemy. Instead, turn the tables in a way that promotes an inspirational purpose for our people and our allies, and at the same time re-positions our enemy. Call our struggle the Fight for a Better World.
Before you barf, though, note that Roberts isn't just saying we should just change the language and imagery of the war. He argues that America should actually head in a different direction, redefine its mission as making the world a better place, and then tackle poverty, hunger and disease as top priorities.
As a businessman, here’s how I look at the figures. The US this year will spend half a trillion dollars on keeping the peace around the world, and fighting wars when we have to. But we’ll invest only $16 billion on overcoming global poverty and disease, which are also weapons of mass destruction, just with longer fuses.
It's not enough to simply repair what we've broken in Iraq. Or to make the world safe for democracy by tamping down other tyrants. If America wants to overcome hate, it has to give love, but that's not a pitch America's brand managers are ready to buy.