Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Unfocused groups

Seems like the campaign to sell the Latham ‘brand’ has only half succeeded:

When the uncommitted voters of the marginal federal seat of Parramatta were asked to give their impressions of Mark Latham, they generally started with a gush of positives.

The Labor leader was passionate, sincere, down to earth, determined, confident, self-made, youthful, a fresh face, intelligent, a fighter, a believer, a working man, an intellectual - all descriptions offered spontaneously by people in three focus groups convened for the Herald last week by pollsters ACNielsen.

But then the positives started to give way to negatives […]The word that came up most often was inexperienced.

See the full story here.

This would suggest that Latham’s newness has not been successfully sold as a positive. That his freshness and youth has not so much contrasted with Howard’s age, but has contrasted with Howard’s experience. Well, in these people’s mind anyway.

Some aspects of Latham’s character which I thought could have easily come across as positives have been damned by some of those interviewed:
John Howard is battle hardened - I saw Latham with tears in his eyes because someone said something bad about his family. At least Howard has his mind on the job.

Talk about tough! Makes me wonder what a leader would have to do to appeal to people like this.

And as for Howard, the voter’s impressions were so confused I’d be surprised if they could tell their arse from their elbow:

The Prime Minister was a grump, old-fashioned, 1950s, whingey, peevish, a liar, a bit devious, a twister of truth, evasive, boring, bland, short, "a bit of a grandpa - he looks like he needs help to cross the street".

But after the initial reactions came a generally more positive stream of thoughts. Howard was experienced, stable, decent, in control, qualified, solid, tried and true, doesn't give up, a good leader, solid, a guy you can't push over.

Perhaps these people should sit down and have a good think about why they have these negative impressions of Howard, and then try to reconcile these with their good impressions of him. Methinks this would be an impossible task. At least they might then see in themselves the same conflicts which come across in the focus group results.

Allow me to introduce an analogy. Any good relationship consultant worth their exorbitant hourly fee would tell you that a relationship with so many conflicts can only be unhealthy and destructive. One simply can’t be happy in a relationship if one is continually reconciling the negative characteristics of the other person – trying to find reasons to stay.

On the other hand, who can honestly say they don’t enjoy that first, exciting and ‘dangerous’ period in a new relationship, a period of discovery and tumult. Even if the relationship doesn't turn into something more long term, you've still lived and enjoyed that period in your life more than you would have had you not taken the risk in the first place.

These voters have enjoyed learning more about Latham as the campaign has gone on and I think they should throw off their inhibitions and progress from flirting to dating.

So I would implore these voters (who, the article states, are more likely to vote on the basis of leadership brands than policy) to break off their current deceitful, negative and stale relationship. Fill your life with positives! Throw off the shackles and free yourself from Johnny’s destructive grasp! Commit your hearts to the young Lathario!


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