At the Presidio School of Management, we first heard of dialogue framing through the work of George Lakoff (Don’t Think of an Elephant). Yesterday, I just reconnected with the same concept about framing words, discussions, debates at the Bioneers Conference, during Thom Hartmann intervention: “Beyond Framing, How deep neuro-linguistic programming communicates”. He stated that to be effective in the public arena, one must understand and use the tools of defining arguments, persuade the public and eventually win elections.
I found really interesting his analysis on public identity. Hartmann noted that in the United States, our identity is one of a consumer and that notion is spreading worldwide, via consumerism. We have been branded as consumers. Contrary to many places in the world, people are first and foremost citizen, “The Defender of the Commons”. Also, Hartmann mentioned that people, as consumers, have been infantilized, pretending that “they are the center of the world”. This created individualism and de-responsibilization.
So what if we were able to re-brand people as citizen? What if we would re-create the identity of the citizen: Anyone working towards the betterment, the beautification of the community we live in through participation, volunteer work and efforts to improve life for all citizens. Branding citizen concept would mean to re-empower the people, make them becoming responsible again and being in charge of their present and future. Quite a sustainability concept!
Because corporate citizenship is gaining more and more attention in the United States, the marketed concept could be applied to people as well. Maybe we are witnessing a convergence of values. With the growth and success of the grass root movement and the growing engagement of people trying to deal with multiple social and environmental issues, it might be time now for the citizen to rise again and take over the consumer. We already have brand equity in the corporate citizenship concept. We can apply the four key components of brand equity (according to Brand Asset Valuator) to the Citizen as well: differentiation (from consumer), relevance (growing feeling of responsibility among people as an appeal), esteem (would be well regarded and respected), knowledge (people are familiar with the concept of Citizenship).
The additional benefice of branding consumers to citizens is that it might also change the world perception on American society, not at its best right now.
Leading brand designer Marc Gobé, building on his highly successful Emotional Branding strategy, wrote recently the book: Citizen Brand. The concept is designed to help companies earn the trust of today’s consumers. Gobé argues that corporations need a new vision to survive in the present “emotional economy,” challenging them to develop more passionate, human, and socially responsible brand strategies. Perhaps Mr. Gobé could go one step further and not refer people as consumer any longer but real citizen.