Friday, November 20, 2009

Climate change - Pepsi v. Coke

There's a great brand positioning war waging in Australian politics right now - with a bit of religious fervour thrown into the mix. It's based on climate change - whether you're of a 'Pepsi' or a 'Coke' persuasion, metaphorically speaking. It was illustrated on last night's edition of Lateline, on which Tony Jones interviewed the Liberal Party's Shadow Minister for Lots, Tony Abbott.

It was hard to decide who to give the 'Tony' award to on this occasion, but former Catholic priest, Tony Abbott, managed to swing religion into the picture, likening Prime Minister Rudd's attack on climate sceptics to the Spanish Inquisition, an accusation that would also fit the good Abbott well at times.

Nevertheless, Tony Abbott raised an interesting point about fads - in this instance the current scientific one of subscribing to the notion of man as a major contributor to global warming. It is like the old Pepsi or Coke allegiance. Both sides of the climate debate are building tribal loyalties, based not on rational argument, but emotion. This is made more evident by the fact that Tony Abbott, as sceptic 'brand advocate' admitted not being steeped in detail about climate change. "I know as much as you would expect of any average politician," he declared. This is either a damning or elevating response, depending on your view of the 'average politician'.

I'm an average Joe and I cannot believe anyone who thinks burning the amount of fossil fuel humans do around the globe can do anything other than warm the place up. Thanks to gravity, clouds and other natural phenomena, not much of the heat we generate escapes into space, so we must be warming the bloody place up! Coupled with the fact that we simultaneously hack down the Earth's carbon dioxide processing facilities (forests) at an astonishing rate, we are only exacerbating the problem!

But back to the Abbott's point. Even on issues as complex as the drivers of climate change, we consumers have a terrific capacity to simplify everything, as I just did, and then form an 'allegiance' which, thanks to out imperfect data processing, is based on instinct rather than rational analysis. Abbott likens the Rudd attack to the Inquisition, eliciting fear of its association with zealotry, lust for power and so on.

This is standard political fare and it shows that our pollies understand the power of branding - the dominance of emotional connection over the rational. Brand connection, or tribalism, is being practiced at the highest levels of our society, not just on supermarket shelves.

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