If you want to find brilliant solutions, look to the people who know how to use the research materials, librarians. When faced with the prospect of a beautiful, award-winning library in Troy, MI being shut down over the Tea Party’s refusal to pay even a little more in taxes, the library advocates turned the argument on its head. They said, okay, you want to close our library? We’ll have a book burning party!
They took their idea to Facebook. They sold merchandise. People were outraged! Who knew that the idea of burning books would inflame even more passion than the idea of paying taxes? In the end, they won. Non-Tea Party voters flooded the polls at three times their usual voting rate.
It turns out that for many Americans, the idea of liberty extends beyond the ability to carry a gun or not pay taxes. For many, the free expression of ideas, as protected by the walls of a library, is more important than a couple extra bucks.
Here’s the video:
In the ongoing battle between the no-tax Tea Party and those who realize that civilization, like everything else, costs money, the pro-civilization side is really horrible at messaging. We’re terrible at conveying exactly what people are getting for their money. How do we get better at messaging? Perhaps we should take a few tips from Madison Avenue.
1. Create a need – Does a person really need an iPad, an iPhone and a computer? Does a person really need energy drinks? Does a person really need fashion? Of course not. But Madison Avenue has done a brilliant job of convincing people that their lives are empty shells without the latest in technology and skinny jeans. Cost might figure into people’s buying decisions but even when it does, it’s often, “do I buy the real thing or the Walmart lookalike?”
In the infrastructure/taxes debate, the need is actually built-in. We need roads. We need schools. We need firefighters. We need police. We need libraries. Yet for some reason, the talk of need has been overtaken by the talk of cost.
2. Bring it home – People don’t care about nameless/faceless people. Show people why government paid services ARE necessary, how they really impact their lives. People hate drivers license bureaus? That’s because they have to wait for hours on end in a dreary office. Imagine a world where there are enough clerks to handle the lines. Imagine a world where the office is painted a color other than some shade of gray. Imagine a world where we can make government better.
3. Make people stand up and take notice – The Troy, MI library did this brilliantly. There’s no reason we can’t do the same for firefighters/teachers/police. Maybe we don’t want to hammer people over the heads with images of ensuing lawlessness and mayhem, but perhaps a little humor. Let’s have a “show your mailman how it’s done” day. While people might bitch about the post office, almost everyone loves their local mail carrier (I sure do). People might be appalled at the idea that we are suggesting that their personal mail carrier is unnecessary. They might even be further appalled that we are asking them to step away from their iPads to do the physically taxing job of carrying the mail, usually by foot, for even a day. Of course, we could do the same for teachers/firefighters/police.
4. Market – Sell ridiculous paraphernalia. Sell t-shirts with Granny trying to carry a fire hose. Promote the idea of a world without the ability to read or write. Your bridges are falling down? Make a party of it! See how long it would take to complete the job. Market candles to those who can’t afford electricity, mace to those who can’t afford private police protection, and practice cash registers for those who can’t afford an education.
The bottom line is that when push comes to shove, common sense does still exist. If we can get people to care enough about an issue that they will show up to the polls, the majority will vote for their own interests. However when all they see on TV is a debate over whether they should pay more taxes, they either fall asleep or think of all the bills they already have to pay. Plus, they’re still saving for that iPad.