What Australian Politics Could Learn About Winning Ugly From Arsenal

What Australian Politics Could Learn About Winning Ugly From Arsenal

B&T’s favourite columnist Kate (The Tall Planner) Smither (main image above) is back with her latest instalment and in this instance, she’s turned her acute eye to the parlous state of Australian Federal Politics and the election campaigns being served up in particular.

When Arsenal beat West Ham, Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta was quoted as saying “In England, you say ‘win ugly’ and from my point of view we won ugly . . . It was a massive win in very difficult circumstances because we caused ourselves problems, especially with our decision-making”.

In the 2022 election in Australia, whichever party gets up on May 21, they will have won ugly.

It won’t be glamorous, it won’t be slick, it won’t even be clear, it will be a win based on the endurance of scrappy attacks and disconnected messages That’s because, in my mind, neither party has gotten out of their own way and neither one has stepped up with discipline, and clarity. Neither one has positioned themselves clearly above the fray

It’s no wonder we are seeing the emergence of a confidence gap between voters and the politicians who lead.

Research from Triple J’s “What’s up in your world” survey showed some scary themes defining this confidence gap. It shows that “while almost 30 per cent of young people thought politicians were working in the best interests of Australia in 2020, only 13 per cent of young Australians agreed with the statement in 2022.” Only around a third can see a difference between the two parties and even more worryingly, the numbers of people who have confidence that politicians are working for indigenous people, immigrants or the planet, drop to four, three and one per cent respectively.

And the confidence gap is very different to the trust one.  It’s more immediate and the loss of confidence shows both boredom, frustration, even embarrassment and significant disillusionment. It’s not that people aren’t engaged or hate politics, it’s just that choosing a new PM seems to have become a grudge purchase.

Watching the last few weeks play out has made me wonder why pollical parties in Australia don’t think like brands more. We haven’t seen an “it’s time” or a “Yes we can” or even (forgive me) a “Make America great again”. We haven’t seen a clear positioning that as The Dude from the Big Lebowski says, can really “tie the whole room together”.

The brilliance of political slogans like these is that they are positioning lines. They pull the “brands apart”.

They give voters clarity about what they are being sold, what voters should believe possible and what they can buy into. They encourage confidence that something will happen. In the world of multichannel, micro-targeting and multiple messages these positioning lines also connect everything around a core difference. And that difference is critical in what is still effectively a binary market.

In Simon Sinek’s Golden Circles, he sets out a model for inspired leaders, using brands as a clear example. Sinek shows how most leaders (as people, businesses or brands) work from the outside in, from the easiest thing to the “fuzziest thing”. Typically, brands and businesses will know what tiny do and (in the words of Sinek) they might even know how they do it, but they don’t know why they do. The inspired leaders, Sinek goes on to point out, start from the inside out.

They don’t start with what they make, they start with why they do it, and more importantly, they understand why people should care.

That is because it is the “Why” that connects all the dots for people and creates critical context and reasoning. It also drives preference and relevance.

I would argue more political advertising and political parties need to start with what their “why” is from their very first ad in market from their first announcement, through their first debate and in every interview. The “why” can help bridge the confidence gap and transparently let people know what they are buying into.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is much written about as a tool for political planning. In fact, the late great Neil Lawrence was a fan and he was the brains behind Kevin 07, our very own and very successful equivalent to “I Like Ike” from the US.

In a chapter of “the Best of Australian Political Writing”, Lawrence’s creation of a political pyramid that corresponds to Maslow is explained. “He (Lawrence) contended that the most basic need for voters was a stable government, free from the threat of coup or revolution. The next level of need was for a government that exhibited sound economic management. The third level of need was for physical safety – strong law and order, safe immigration policies, and freedom from terrorism. Only after a political party was able to satisfy these basic needs would the electorate be interested in whether the party could satisfy higher-order needs, such as a need for an equitable society and the fairness and decency of the Australian way of life.”

As a framework, it works because it covers the key areas of what motivates, what reassures and what creates action in people. It works because it also takes a wider view across the whole campaign, not just one ad or speech or photo opportunity within it.

It also works ideologically if you look at our two-party system. The parties tend to try and split the pyramid. Labor delivers the top – the big social reform, the big cultural changes. The Liberal Party tends to argue they deliver the bottom of the pyramid, the more basic economic needs. The real challenge for both parties is that the bottom with no top is a road to nowhere and the top with no anchor is too. You need (as Lawrence showed) to prove stability and trustworthiness across all levels. You need to give people confidence that you can deliver

In this election, I would argue the most interesting part is actually going to be the middle of the pyramid. It’s the layer that transitions from the basic needs to a focus on belonging, safety and moves people up to the ideal of a better future.  It is the layer where confidence comes in and people go with you, it is where they back one person and one party of another.

When you teach school-aged kids debating (which I did in a past life) you teach them a simple structure of three. It is a simple structure that more politicians should follow.  The structure goes like this…Say what you are going to tell people, then tell them and finally, tell them why you’ve told them. It can help give people some clarity and that in turn helps invoke much-needed confidence. It might just also let you win less ugly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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Kate Smither The Tall Planner

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