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Right Wing Target Marketing

shystee's picture


Color Coding = Media Type
Light Green: Print Media
Orange: TV
Light Brown: Radio
Light Blue: Internet/Blogs

Size of Blob = Reach AKA Relative Size of Audience

Note: If you already buy in to the idea that Politics is Marketing and are familiar with the concept of Target Marketing please skip ahead to the end. Otherwise, let's inroduce some of the assumptions behind this chart.

Shystee Axiom #4: Current US Politics is Marketing.

Politicians and political groups, certainly political consultants, have adopted the principles, the techniques and the technology of Product Marketing.

The Marketing Campaign = Right Wing Ideology
The Potential Customers = US Voters
The Sale = Voting for a Right Wing Politician

Karl Rove got his start in Direct Mail Marketing (see Bush's Brain). He's been applying Marketing techniques to politics ever since he began that career. Of course, he's not the only one.

Shytee Axiom #5: Marketing Works

Consumers buy crap that is of absolutely no practical use to them (and is sometimes even harmful to them) every day. The US economy depends on consumers to do this in massive numbers and continuously.

Why do people buy crap that if of no use to them? Because they have been persuaded to by successful Marketing. Why do corporations spend billions on advertising? Because it's been proven to deliver a substantial return on investment.

As my favorite Marketing Ronin once said, "Marketing is an Art and a Science". It's the art and the science of persuading people to do things. It borrows from the disciplines of writing, art (graphic design), pyschology, statistics and information technology.

The US Marketing industry has mastered this art and science. It's the only thing we're better at than the rest of the World, at this point.

Oversimplified Marketing 101: Target Marketing

A crude example of Target Marketing would be billboards featuring Billy Dee Williams saying that "Colt 45 Works Every Time" [a fine malt liquor, if I may add] posted only in black (and poor) neighborhoods.

Elements of Target Marketing:

Target Demographic: lower-class Black people

Colt 45 was not developed with upper (or even middle) -class White People in mind. That's what Michelob is for.

Beer, inc. is still selling beer to all these groups, but they've diversified. Beer inc's management figured out that they would sell more beer overall if they made different beer for different groups rather than trying to sell the same beer to everyone.

Localization: urban ghettoes

Target marketing is cost-effective. Buying billboards only in urban ghettoes is cheaper than trying to blanket an entire metropolitan area.

The US Census and private companies tell marketing weasels exactly where a target population lives, based on a very wide variety of variables. "Give me Female cat owners, ages 25-35, white or asian, with a household income of $30-$80$K, who own cars and are active and concerned about the enviroment. I want zip codes, area codes, mail and email addresses."

Choice of Media Vehicle: billboards

Marketing departments have access to information that will tell them which type of media will be more effective in reaching their target audience. I don't recall many Colt 45 ads in Vanity Fair Magazine, for example.

Messaging: Billy Dee, "Works Every Time"

This is one of the most important aspects. Target Marketing allows marketers to speak to an audience "like they know them", like they're "one of them".

They can design specific language and "look and feel" that will be most effective in persuading a specific audience. What motivates this group? What do they want? Who do they aspire to be like? You can deduce what the marketers figured out for the Colt 45 campaign.

Marketers also study a target audience's psychology, preferences and "triggers" through surveys and focus groups.

I saw a Frontline special (you can watch the whole thing online) where Frank Luntz had a room full of "paid volunteers" (statistically valid sampling, I'm sure) each with a gadget. The gadget had a dial which focus group participants were told to turn one way or the other based on their positive or negative reaction to a speech that was being played on the TV. Ol' Frank was behind mirrored glass with a monitor which superimposed a graph aggregating the responses over the speech. Frank was then able to figure out which words and concepts his client should or should not use.

I think Ol' (and ugly) Frank used this same technique when he worked for the Bush campaign.

Right Wing Target Marketing

My rudimentary chart shows how the elements of Target Marketing are at work in the US Right Wing Media environment.

From the Frontline special:

Political consultant Frank Luntz has built his career on a simple idea: It doesn't matter what you want to tell the public -- it's about what they want to hear.

Target Demographic

The chart above shows that there are very distinct socio-economic groups that the Right Wing is trying to reach. Like in the example of Beer, Inc., the Right Wing has learned from Marketing to diversify their product in order to achieve higher overall sales. But, like Beer, Inc., they're selling basically the same thing to all the groups: beer, or in this case Right Wing Ideology and Republican Candidates for elected office.

Since the examples in the chart are nationwide media outlets, there is not so much localization. However, it's easy to understand that Pat Robertson's audience lives in very different places than the audience of, say NYT's David Brooks. Karl Rove knew exactly which districts he would impact by having Bush on TV Preacher shows during the campaign.

Rove also knew better than to put leaflets with a picture of two men kissing and messaging that said the Democrats were coming to take your Bible away on parked cars in Manhattan. The GOP had "street teams" place those fliers on cars parked outside Southern and rural churches.

Choice of Media Vehicle

The Right Wing is very aware of the fact that different Media have different audiences. Truckers, rural folk and suburbanites with long commutes are more likely to listen to Talk Radio. Families with two income earners and kids are more likely to get their news from TV during their limited down time. Business executives and Government bureaucrats get their news from newspapers. Young to middle-aged, hopelessly single, professional geeks with LOTS of time on their hands get their news from the internet and the blogs.


Compare and contrast the writing of a George Will to the semi-illiterate rantings of a Kaye Grogan. Not only is there a stylistic difference, but also a significant difference in content.

The content is tailored to the values, desires and psychology of the different groups in order to be more persuasive. Kaye Grogan's columns appeal to Patriotism and Religious Identity. George Will's columns appeal to Fairness and Benevolent Capitalism.

You'll also notice a trend in the chart: as the Socio-Economic status of the target audience goes down (Y Axis) the Wingnuttery Per Utterance (X Axis) quotient increases. Messaging for people with higher levels of education must appear to be "fair and balanced", otherwise it risks "turning off" that audience. Whereas in the case of blue-collar and religious fundamentalist audiences, extremist rhetoric is perfectly acceptable.

Other Conclusions

I've seen some lefty bloggers get confused by the existence of such rhetorical extremes within one Conservative Movement. The key is to understand target marketing.

For example, when Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on the air, some "respected" opinion columnists on the Right expressed a mild outrage. But this is only because the opinion columnists' job is to maintain the sense in *their* target audience that the Right Wing is not filled with complete nutjobs.

What was the consequence of this incident? Nothing. I doubt that the "700 Club" lost any of its audience as a result and the "respectable" conservatives sure as hell have not disavowed the support of Religious Fundamentalist hucksters like Robertson who are essential to the GOP's political power.

Target audiences are not supposed to be aware of the messaging that targets groups on the opposite extreme of the Socio-Economic spectrum. The only problem with the Robertson/Chavez incident was that this compartmentalization was momentarily broken.

A Republican business executive would undoubtedly laugh their ass off upon reading a Kaye Grogan column. Likewise, if a fundamentalist trucker were aware of who David Brooks and Tucker Carlson were, they would probably think they were New York queers.

But it doesn't matter. Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks. They're all pushing the same basic agenda (Right Wing Ideology) and with the same goal (Republican dominance of US government).


I am profoundly indebted to the work of Prof. The Editors of The Poorman Institute and the team of Wingnutologists at Sadly, No! for their daring research in the field of Extreme Wingnuttery.

UDPATE Welcome, Seeing the forst readers!

UPDATE Welcome, Daou Report readers!

UPDATE Welcome, MyDD readers!

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