This post is an email from Domingo T. Ligot:
In his book entitled “The Tipping Point” Malcolm Gladwell wrote about a campaign slogan a long time ago about cigarettes which read “Winstons taste good like a cigarette should”. Slogans like these are coined by highly paid experts employed by advertising agencies who sell their services to anyone wishing to promote something like an item or product for sale including a candidate seeking public office. Mr. Gladwell recounts that the Winston slogan successfully “stuck” in the minds of cigarette smokers in America first then the rest of the smoking world that steadily Winston started to gain ground and eventually begun to outsell its competition like Philip Morris, L&M, and other brands. It goes without saying that the study and coining of effective slogans certainly requires an understanding of its target market. The market for Winston cigarettes and its competitors Philip Morris and L&M clearly would be a higher strata of the smoking public than perhaps smokers of Bataan Matamis, Gold Coin, and Fighter, local cigarette brands then that were cheaper (1/2 the price of Winston etc. or cheaper for those who still remember) so that the slogan for Winston must appeal to a more sophisticated motivation to choose this cigarette from its competitors than slogans promoting the cheaper cigarettes. It will not be unusual therefore to find slogans aimed at lower strata markets like the poor sounding unsophisticated, inane, and ridiculously simple because, lets face it, they would’nt be able to understand or appreciate a sophisticated slogan anyway. (Do you recall a sound bite for Bataan Matamis that aired over the AM radio many years back which even sounded like a “ngo-ngo” speaking? The idea perhaps was to promote Bataan Matamis to the real poor even a “ngo-ngo” who is a ridiculed but amusing fellow likes it). An ad agency which does not know or appreciate this basic reality will fail in its business.
With the foregoing as background let us now examine certain political slogans of the recent past. Candidate Joseph “Erap” Estrada used the slogan “Erap Para sa Mahirap” when he won the presidency and more recently candidate Noynoy Aquino had the slogan “Kung Walang Corrupt Walang Mahirap” when he won the presidency. Glaringly common in the two slogans is the word “Mahirap” betraying that the target of both slogans are, you guessed it, the “Mahirap” or poor. Going back to the Winston slogan analysis above, it makes sense that when your target market for a slogan are the lower strata of society it must by necessity sound inane and ridiculously simple otherwise it will not be effective or, in the words of Malcolm Gladwell, it will not “stick”. If we are to ask their promoters whether the candidates sincerely believed or meant what their slogans said, we will probably just get a shrug and a “who cares they won did’nt they” retort. But unfortunately the “Mahirap” will swallow these slogans as true albeit inane and insincere, just look at how Erap remains popular among the poor despite his shenanigans while he was in office, and in the case of President Noynoy you can see how the poor currently resonate with his supposed anti corrupt campaign they have become like mindless hooligans out to lynch GMA at whatever cost. The lamentable thing however is many of those who should know better ride on this ignorance and instead of promoting calm and orderliness they serve like rah-rah boys egging the poor to proceed in their mob mentality (Recall who were on platforms with microphones egging the “masa” to invade Malacanang during the so-called EDSA III and those now in congress, especially the party list kind, and priests who love to run and those who love to appear in media every chance they get who are dressed and speak nowhere near being poor). Are the poor really in the hearts and minds of these powerful people, are they concerned that the poor are just being exposed to more harm than good? Who cares, they won didn’t they!
The ad agency and the expert who came out with the slogans must have gotten a hefty bonus and a rousing celebration after the elections for coming up with the winning slogan, now they rest until the next election, that is simply how it works.
Domingo is a retired lawyer from the Philippines. He has worked in various capacities as a lawyer in both the private sector and Philippine government.