TorNATO: Protesters in Need of a Brandstorm

The streets are alive with the sound of NATO. Or, rather, the streets are alive with the sound of NATO protesters. NATO representatives themselves sit quietly around a table while their presence in Chicago and very existence as an organization is protested in the streets below.

From the never-dying Occupy Movement to the now raging NATO demonstrations, it is comforting to see that we, as Americans, are not as complacent as we appear. The fire is still there; we will still fight for what we want and not just casually allude to our mores and beliefs on twitter. It is reassuring, but a protest is only as effective as its messaging.

NATO is seated alphabetically around a round table with an agenda, mission and logo. They have an organized system. Meanwhile, the people blunder in the streets.

Protests don’t need to be chaotic. Organization, purpose and clear points of difference would render riot shields and billy clubs unnecessary.

That’s right. Protestors are each their own brand and should be expected to operate as such.

You wouldn’t expect someone to buy from you if they don’t know what you are selling. Similarly, how can you expect someone to join your cause if they don’t know what you are fighting for?

Your voice and your sign are only one in a teaming crowd, how you use them is everything.

Photo Via World News Inc.

What is your message and who is your audience? You shouldn’t be protesting simply because everyone else is or because you want the experience your parents had in the sixties. Most people protest to demand change. A sweeping generalization of “NATO is Evil,” as pictured in the photo above is indirect. It limits the protests credibility with name-calling and no support. Brands don’t rely on this playground level of messaging. You don’t hear commercial copy saying, “hey, we’re better than that other guy.” They support their claims and give consumers a reason to believe in their point of difference.

Stating that “NATO is evil” or that “NATO=WWIII” lacks substance, intelligence and strategy.

Photo via

Moreover, it doesn’t stand out. There is nothing clever or creative about it. If “NATO is evil” were the title of an article, I wouldn’t even skim it. The code pink protesters demanding to “Bust up NATO” with pink signs resembling the silhouette of a woman’s bust have the right idea. Their messaging isn’t transparent, but at least it is captivating and thought provoking. Those demanding “Healthcare not Warfare” have at least taken the time to play with words and define their aim. And, although NATO themselves don’t have any authority in terms of healthcare legislation; their demands are being seen and heard.

Creativity doesn’t need to be extreme. Last week an arrest was made in Bridgeport because individuals were allegedly discovered concocting Molotov cocktails. Threats, violence and destruction are not effective brand or protest strategies.

You can have an aggressive brand strategy without resorting to violence. At this morning’s Boeing protest protesters staged a die-in. A new spin on an old favorite, the die-in represented opposition the company’s military supporting role. It was practical, peaceful and clever. One protester even played “Taps.”

Boeing Die-In (Photo via Chicago Tribune)

It is moving that the citizens of our country and city are riled up and determined to change the world. However admirable their conviction, their strategy is lacking the organization, messaging and creativity required to achieve their desired impact.

Moreover, they could’ve used a copywriter, or at least a basic grammar/spell-check, before hitting the streets.

Also, I'm gonna argue that if you received a speeding ticket it was because you were speeding...not because of the Mayor. (Photo via Chicago Sun Times)

posted in Blog, Brand Matters

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