Saturday, April 07, 2007

David vs Goliath

Everyone likes an underdog, nobody likes a bully. The Conservatives continue to flex their financial muscles, with the obnoxious opening of the "fear factory" and another round of attack ads. A show of force, an air of intimidation, but I wonder if the framing might backfire.

Liberals can't compete with the Conservatives, in terms of resources, that is painfully obvious. Better to embrace the underdog role, because it offers some potential with voters. Traditionally, the Liberal Party has been viewed as a bloated, hierarchical machine, that denotes a certain privilege. However, the Conservatives might just do the Liberal image a favour, in embracing force and might. The appearance now, the big bad Tories, up against the cash strapped Liberals. I'm not sure Canadians will respond to the idea that their vote preference is something that can be bought, or manipulated.

The Tory war room is obscene, and rather than fear it, Liberals should point to it as a symbol of a marketing campaign. People don't like to be thought of as sheep, that are easily bought and influenced. Whether they are or not is debatable, but it's the impression that could backfire. Contrast the hype-machine with a low key pledge to ideas and you might be on to something. Dion, the little guy, up against the powerful Conservative machine. There is a certain attraction in framing oneself as the underdog, people naturally sympathize.

Listening to various media outlets, I had the distinct impression that the Tory war room left a bad taste. In no uncertain terms, the message was clear, we don't need the media, will can talk over you. Reporters are supposed to be unbiased, but with such a direct rebuke of their traditional role, it could lead to a unintended blowback. Little Dion might just benefit from the perception that Harper is running a slick, propaganda campaign. Reporters, maybe more than the general population, can't resist an underdog. People will remember that Dion received nothing but positive coverage during the leadership race, when he was considered a longshot. You could argue that this coverage was instrumental in giving his campaign the credibility it needed to look viable.

You can't fight against reality. A shrewd strategy embraces that reality and tries to frame in a way that neutralizes the perceived advantage. I can't think of a better way to shed the past perceptions, than to package the Liberal Party as the scrappy underdog, passionately trying to get a positive message out, on an uneven playing field.

5 comments:

Woman at Mile 0 said...

Good post. I was pondering the same questions. I think it could easily backfire as long as Dion is seen to be fighting back as hard as he can ...people will respect that.

knb said...

It's interesting that the conservatives have been whining for years as to how bloated the Liberal machine was. Yet one more hypocritical stance.

You make an interesting point Steve. It is entirely possible that this is how it will be received. I think it's important to remember, that though the Lib's are shy on cash, they still have a wealth of experience and knowledge working for them. I don't think Dion can play it any other way, in part because that is who his is.

Torian said...

certainly the underdog analogy has a certain charm and may get votes.

I would agree with the whole "bought and sold" of the Conservative's media centre, except for one thing: grassroots donations paid for that centre.
The people who donated money will have no problem supporting the Conservatives and their media centre.

Anonymous said...

I am old and I came To the conclusion the REALLY BIG GUNS are useless when it Comes to real peoples and their interests ...
now they think they have the Shock and Awe Campaign Mashine ..... and they got a Big Laugh on it...

Harper wants to win with George Bush's approwal rate ??? ..

Fool me once ......

marta from vancouver

Freudian Slip said...

It sure is an uneven playing field! But all the more reason to press forward even harder.
Matt