Unhidden Persuaders

In “Unhidden Persuaders” (Business Bookshelf, July 2), David Billet describes Rob Walker’s brand-centered “murketing” (murky marketing) as focused on authenticity, identity, and community. Mr. Walker’s theory centers in part on “projectibility” — making a product that consumers can interpret in a way that is meaningful to them. This idea may be new to business, but it is among the cornerstones of our two-party system.

Business consumers have lost interest in being told, “top-down,” what they want. Similarly, American voters have become seduced by our presidential candidates’ bottom-up “murketing” messages. We read between the lines to decipher the candidates’ positions on housing and trade, while remaining intimately acquainted with Obama’s pastor and McCain’s new airborne “Straight Talk Express.” Obama’s calls for change are as projectable as the “Livestrong” bracelet representative of new murketing, while any candidate’s “straight talk” becomes so fractured by voters’ and media’s inability to listen “straight” as to invite murky projection.

Mr. Billet asks whether consumers may be certain of anything at all, and Walker’s book notes that advertising is a fact of life and bottom-up marketing allows the customer to remain “always right.” For voters, fractured messages and murky policies are a fact of life, but if voters connect the dots for our candidates, we might find our projections very wrong. While sophisticated consumers drive bottom-up marketing in business, bottom-up “projectable” campaigning should drive voters to apply similarly sophisticated reasoning. Voters’ response to the murketing campaign must be to retain a discerning ear and avoid connecting the dots when that is the candidates’ very job.

Kathryn Ciano

Arlington, VA

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