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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

5 Ways The Broadwell-Petraeus Scandal Will Almost Certainly Be Monetized & The 3 Themes That Drive Them (Updated)

I posted some brief thoughts yesterday (they're included again today) but wanted to reflect a bit further in sharing this. Because it's always difficult when you write about topics that have to do with very serious, sensitive and complex matters, including unresolved matters affecting our national security and an ongoing investigation (none of which this is about - sorry folks, it's just marketing).

Like everybody else I'm a subjective human being with emotions invested in the day's news, especially news that touches on topics I am passionate about.

But the job of a marketer is to be objective. When I write here it's not about preaching but rather sharing insights based on real-world examples. This is in fact the difference between an academic science, a discipline, and a subjective exercise in political correctness or religion, neither of which I am here to provide.

But in the meantime I hope nobody is offended if I say what I see, and at this time I see the Paula Broadwell-Gen. Petraeus scandal taking on monstrous proportions in the marketplace. The products I identified yesterday remain the same:

1. Movie on Lifetime
And probably a feature film too - because this narrative is just too dramatic to believe and hits on just about every anxiety you can think of with respect to national security, marriage, women's incredible power to mess men up, etc.

2. Teary memoir
Because Paula really was in love, she and her husband had an "understanding"...

3. Toned arm exerciser 
Such as QVC, because if you have toned arms there is very little that can stand in your way

4. Self help book for older wives 
Likely by a Dr. Laura or Dr. Phil type, possibly one the betrayed spouse, to help other survivors of infidelity

5. Reality show appearance by Broadwell 
Survivor? Dr. Drew? - because we do need to know what drives an overachiever to go over the edge

Here are the common themes driving all these products, and why I think they will most definitely happen and sell:

1. The power of popular culture to absorb and ameliorate anxiety
In the post-9/11 era, Americans face unprecedented national security threats. Retired Gen. Petraus represented strength (not incidentally, a father figure) who was protecting us from those threats. We are having trouble processing what happened in this incident, not just because we don't know but because we don't like to see weakness in our leaders - it makes us feel vulnerable. (Of course there is also the matter of seeing a trusted person commit an act of betrayal.) Therefore, turning the incident into simple popular culture products like books, memoirs and film will help us emotionally process and work through the anxieties raised by this event.

2. Persistent fears and anxieties around gender, relationships, marriage
The events in this story play into the most dramatic and time-tested fears and anxieties. And we are much more comfortable on the emotional side than trying to grasp things we know nothing about. On the emotional side, people can relate: There is a "young, beautiful woman who leads to the downfall of a general." There is the "crazy mistress with uncontrollable possessive jealousy." There is the "otherwise brilliant man who made a life-destroying mistake." There is the "innocent, noble and suffering wife." 

3. Mistrust of Washington
This is still very much a new story, but already one can see the meme of mistrust in the headlines. We have now landed in the "incomprehensible shadowy world" where things are not what they seem, where powerful people square off against other powerful people, and where the average American can do nothing more than look on. The level of the individuals involved, the proximity to the election, and the lack of clarity around the roles of the individual players and their impact on national security domestically and overseas - all of this contributes to a heightened sense of proportion. There is an intense need to understand what's going on and bring D.C. into the "pop culture jurisdiction" where it can be reviewed, assessed, talked over and worked out.

Briefly, back to the notes around the difficulty I had writing this post.

Have you read the book My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok? In that book the main character (Asher Lev) is a gifted painter and his art takes him out of the ultra-religious world of his upbringing. He can't be like the others in the flock who shape their brains according to tradition because artistic gift is about sharing your truth no matter where it takes you.

That's sort of how I see marketing. It is a marketers' job to identify potential customers and convert them into actual ones. That's it. You can't write a marketing blog and at the same time worry about political correctness. Hopefully good people will take the techniques and use them to sell good things with passion. 

Finally, I also want to note that everything in my blog is an expression of my personal opinion. It is not sponsored, supported or representative of my employer - as you probably already know, I work for the government - or any other individual or organization.

Hoping we can work through this painful time as a nation and arrive in a better place.