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Want To Run for President? Become a Brand.

If there is one innovation in American life which came about during my lifetime and now seems to be on its way out, it’s not the fast-food chain or the touch-button phone, neither of which existed in the 1950’s when I was a kid. Nor did we have what we call the convenience store, the very first time I walked into such an establishment was 1985.

What I’m talking about is the shopping mall, which began sprouting all over the country in the 1960’s when for the first time the percentage of Americans living in suburbs was the same as the percentage of Americans still living in urban zones.

Big cities had long been locations for large stores, like Hudson’s in Detroit, Marshall Field in Chicago, and Macy’s in New York. But what we used to call ‘department stores’ were so named because everything in the store was being sold by one vendor, even if the store had different sections or ‘departments’ for clothes, furniture, toys and so forth.

The whole point of a shopping mall was that everything was still under one roof, but inside the building there were stores owned by different vendors who not only sold a specific type of product, but more important, sold a product with a specific brand name.

And this is how retailing has changed over the past fifty years from selling consumer products not by price or by design, but by brand.

Incidentally, the reason that large shopping malls are in trouble is because even with all those small, independent retailers selling a specific brand, what made a mall profitable was if it contained a couple of large, ‘anchor’ stores, i.e., major department store chains like Macy’s or Sears. The anchor stores paid most of the rent and did the advertising which brought customers to the malls.

The problem that the large, anchor stores have today is that the typical consumer prefers to go into a sales space which features only the products connected to a specific brand. And this focus on brand, rather than store size, is what drives internet retailing as well.

Guess what? The same shift from product to brand which will eventually force many shopping malls to remake themselves into a different type of merchandising is going to happen in another aspect of American society as well, namely, the way we go about deciding whom to vote for every two and four years.

Understand that the same internet connections used to sell you various consumer brands and products are also used to promote various individuals campaigning for your vote, a recent development in political marketing that was largely developed by a guy with lots of experience in building a brand named Donald Trump.

As political narratives shift from 30-second TV soundbites to 280-character tweets, more people running for public office will begin thinking of themselves as branded produces which can be sold on the internet in the same way that every other consumer product is increasingly being sold. Right now, this political brand building is primarily being done on the alt-right, because it’s easier to tale advantage of an already defined consumer market such as MAGA, than to start out from scratch.

You might want to believe that someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene says what she says because she’s dumb as hell. Ditto Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz. But if you believe these loudmouths aren’t being coached and consulted by professional marketing and PR firms, think again.

The next time you have an opportunity to listen to Trump make comments at one of his rallies (his next appearance is in South Carolina on July 1st) you might notice that all he does for an hour or so is talk about himself. He’ll whine about the Communists, Socialists and Soros-types who run the Deep State, he’ll tell you that he’s still the object of a witch-hunt and he’ll complain about how the RINOS are ruining the GOP.

Issues? What issues? Who cares about issues?

I’m just waiting for our side to recognize how basing campaign narratives on issues is going the way that all those department stores have gone and the way that many shopping malls are going today.

Hey Democrats! Get with the program, okay? Time to start talking about yourselves and forget all that nonsense about curbing inflation, eliminating student loans and peace in Ukraine.

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