Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Justin Trudeau: Controlling the narrative

The Trudeau camp have shown deft footwork in recent weeks by their control of the Trudeau narrative through speedy responses.

Two attacks on the Trudeau brand have been immediately countered, and successfully changed into a more positive narrative.
PET & hat

The Branding Attack

The anti-Trudeau commentators struck out with two frames: Justin Trudeau is just a pretty face, with no record of accomplishments.

The Trudeau machine hit back immediately.

Just a Pretty Face?

They changed pretty face to charisma, which did two things very effectively: invoked memories of his father and Trudeaumania, and drew a sharp contrast with the staid Stephen Harper, who doesn’t do the charisma thing.

No record?

With the help of some journalitst, the no record charge was swiftly changed to the fighter narrative.
Justin Trudeau & hat

It was pointed out by many journalists that Trudeau had chosen to fight in a tough seat, and had fought hard in both elections so far.

The fighter image fits nicely in with Trudeau’s triumph in his boxing match. It also fits in with the ancient myths of the hero’s story, and the journey of the hero that underlies so much of our recorded writings.

This Putin-like image projects toughness.

PET was tough: a memorable image of the older Trudeau is that of a man with a whaddabout it expression on his many-planed face, and his hands on his hips. Pierre Trudeau’s body language often conveyed a You wanna piece of me? message, and Canadians loved this.

Vladimir Putin - Russian tough guy

We see some of this image-invocation with the cowboy hats, worn with flair by both Trudeaus.

Alberta and The Fighter code

Justin Trudeau is going to Alberta today, much to surprise of many in the media.

Those people miss the whole point. Would a real fighter avoid a fight? So Justin going to Alberta makes sense.

It makes even more sense when you consider the claim by some media that Justin Trudeau is doomed in Alberta because of his father’s National Energy Plan. These people miss two essential facts: that most Albertans have only a vague concept of the NEP, and that modern Alberta is a changed place due to migrations. Just ask any Calgarian who his mayor is.

Justin Trudeau and the Canadian Code

I enjoy analyzing responses of politicians through the prism of cultural archetypes, as proposed by the cheese doctor, Dr Clotaire Rapaille. Rapaille believes the brain is made up of three components, and any effective message needs to embrace all three parts, including the primitive reptilian brain.

Click here for a blogger’s summary of Rapaille’s cultural codes.

Rapaille believes that:

All purchases are impulse purchases.

That's the controversial theory of Clotaire Rapaille, author of The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around The World Live and Buy as They Do.
According to Rapaille, cars, clothing and even furniture are purchased with the same unconscious motivation that drives someone to choose, say, a Snickers bar at the checkout line.

What's more, Rapaille believes these thoughtless processes are unique to various cultures and can be codified, creating archetypes of each country's buying habits.

"Except for things like water and bread, almost nobody buys with their rational mind," says the cultural anthropologist and marketing expert, originally from France but now based in Tuxedo Park, N.Y.

"The culture code," writes Rapaille, "is the unconscious meaning we apply to any given thing – a car, a type of food, a relationship, even a country – via the culture in which we are raised."

It is interesting to speculate how Justin Trudeau fits the Canadian code as per Rapaille:

In a phone interview last week, Rapaille revealed the unconscious behaviours that make Canadians tick.

Canada's culture codes are deeply rooted in our experience with winter, says Rapaille. 

"Canadians learned from the beginning to use what they call `winter energy' to act so as to conserve as much energy as possible."

Because of this, he says, "Canadians do not seek leaders with vision, capable of making major breakthroughs."

Instead, they elect prime ministers who serve as guardians. "If the culture code for the American presidency is the biblical figure Moses, a leader who could make his people believe they could do the impossible, Canadians seek leaders who are capable of maintaining the culture. The culture code for Canada is `To Keep.'"

How should Justin Trudeau position himself as the guardian of Canada, the one who maintains the culture?

For starters, consider this portion of his launch speech:

We know some Quebecers want their own country. A country that reflects our values, that protects our language and our culture, that respects our identity.

My friends, I want to build a country too. A country worthy of my dreams. Of your dreams. But for me, that country reaches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Great Lakes to the Grand North.

Quebecers have always chosen Canada because we know it is the land of our ancestors -  who built this country from east to west. They were here to write the first chapters of the great Canadian history of courage, liberty and hope. We have left our footsteps everywhere.

Will we put this history aside now because people of other languages came after us with the same dream of building a better country ? Of course not. Our contribution to Canada is far from over.

I want the Liberal Party to be once again the party that promotes and cherishes the francophone reality of this country. I want my party to support francophone communities across the country. And I want the Liberal Party to be once again the vehicle for Quebecers to contribute to the future of Canada.

If that is not a statement of an intent To Keep Canada united, I am out to lunch.


  1. He is tough on honour killings.

  2. Rotterdam, I think such killings are barbaric. I did read Trudeau's post-statement explanations, and understand the context in which he objected to the use of the word 'barbaric'. But he is very clearly firmly opposed to such misnamed 'honour killings'- if was not, he would not be the next Liberal Leader no matter what. So your statement that he is not tough on honour killings is a misstatement of his position.

    Taking a leaf out of Lakoff's book, such killings should be called something else, without the use of the word 'honour''to describe their nature.


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