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Let's Talk about Guns
By Jon Reiner
17 December 2015
To: Trigger Communications Clients
From: Trigger Crisis Management Team
Subject: “Thoughts and Prayers” Successor Brand Message
Date: December 17, 2015
The growing media blowback against “thoughts and prayers” as an incident-response-deflection-point signals the need for dissemination of a new unified response message prior to occurring situational need. “Thoughts and prayers” has served our clients well since its formal implementation in 2012, but, like all position statements, it is reaching the end of its empathy lifecycle. (See “Shock and Awe” 2004, “Read My Lips” 1992, “Nixon’s the One” 1960, 1962, 1974.) Anticipating this transition, Trigger has shortlisted five successor candidates that were focus-grouped last night. We are communicating with you in advance of the final language rollout that will be formalized in the Congressional Freedom Caucus this week. The five finalists and consensus insights are:
1. “Today, we are all (insert place name).”
Building on the cultural penetration of “We are all Georgians” and “We are all Ukrainians,” the message combines emotional inclusion with a specific location reference – the victims’ hometown. The language maps grief both collectively and individually, and can be applied in every state regardless of political demographic. Roll your mouth around, “Today, we are all Buffalonians.” How does it feel?
2. “Americans won’t let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch.”
A message with enormous upside, embellishing the time-honored saying with powerful nationalism suggesting blame, agriculture and computers. Its capacity to transcend eras and geographies indicates a lifecycle that may extend far beyond predecessor messages –longevity that will allow for product licensing design, manufacture and distribution. Generally, a three-year window is required to recover merchandising costs, and we see this message potentially outperforming the trend. Remember your “I’m with Stupid” T-shirt? We can do better.
3. “Ronald Reagan.”
Though not technically a phrase, research shows that invoking the 40th president’s name creates a “halo effect” over every cultural and economic issue important to your primary constituency despite the specifics of the president’s actual legislative record. Saying “Ronald Reagan” repeatedly to a persistent reporter will make the reporter’s questions seem disrespectful to the Reagan legacy and has the potential benefit of completely confusing him. Let’s turn the tables.
Similar in approach to number three, “Obamacare”’s value as an all-purpose threat to your constituency’s core values is seemingly unlimited. Pitchforking Obamacare as the devil’s work has been successfully stuck on issues ranging from jobs to religious freedom to why so many NFL teams are awful this season. It’s the rhetorical gift that keeps on giving. We also still have a huge inventory of low-cost “Honk if you hate Obamacare” bumper stickers. God love the Chinese.
5. “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
Seemingly a wild card, it scored off the charts with white males over 35 (our sweet spot), owing to the enduring appeal of The Godfather. However, when contextually repurposed for incident response, the line could generate a universal “Where’s the beef?” effect. Godfather copyright restrictions would be obviated by the Fair Use doctrine widely employed by SNL and other comedy outlets. Laughter is the best medicine. Wouldn’t you agree?
Jon Reiner (GOTCHA!) is the James Beard Award-winning author of the memoir The Man Who Couldn’t Eat and the director of the award-winning documentary film Tree Man. His work has appeared in Esquire, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, been nominated for a National Magazine Award and recorded for NPR.