Last month I posted about the societal and political divide in the attitudes and response to the coronavirus. This divide continues. While some Republican governors have issued stay at home orders, the holdouts are all Republicans. And today, Easter Sunday, there will be church services in some of those states.
It’s easy to be critical and think they are doing the wrong thing. But what role does the media and the marketing community play in perpetuating the societal divide and in continuing the unnecessary deaths? I think their inability to think like a conservative contributes to the divide.
The framing of talking about the need to protect the most “vulnerable” that is used most often is a liberal trope. It plays on the “need” flavor of the fairness moral foundation, one that is most common among the most progressive parts of society. This most common expression about why it is important for people to self-isolate works among a liberal audience.
But liberals don’t know how to motivate conservatives. It doesn’t work on conservative audience. And in fact, it may backfire, because it is a liberal trope. Conservatives react negatively if they think it is what liberals want.
But what if it was reframed using conservative values? What if, instead of using the term “vulnerable”, the media and the marketing folk had used the term “elderly”? And, to take it further, what if invoked the conservative value of respect for authority? It would never occur to liberals to talk about preserving and respecting the authority of elders. They would never say that the elders have “earned” our respect the way a conservative would.
Would it have been more effective with conservatives? Would lives have been saved? I think it could have worked.
There is still time. The red states are just now starting to experience coronavirus deaths. And this could be useful outside the US. Many of the emerging markets which are just beginning to be affected.
I’ve talked before about how marketing is missing an opportunity for sales because it doesn’t understand its conservative customers. But now that same inability to communicate is costing lives. This is tragic.
If anyone wants to take me up on this recommendation, I can help you think through how to do this. Or if you want to learn more, check out my latest book, available for pre-order on Amazon.
Edited to add on April 25th: As Georgia opens up some non-essential businesses, one wag protested this decision at the state capital with the following sign, using the Governor's name (KEMP) as a mnemonic: “Killing Everyone’s Meemaw Prematurely.” Same idea!