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Propaganda, Social and Political Marketing

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Human-Written

Words: 2332 |

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12 min read

Published: Feb 13, 2024

Words: 2332|Pages: 5|12 min read

Published: Feb 13, 2024

Is there a difference between propaganda and social and political marketing?

'Why Violent Video Games Shouldn't Be Banned'?

Propaganda emerged during the first World War as a means to increase state power through battling for the hearts and minds of the masses or, ‘hegemony’ as Gramsci (1971) would term it. More specifically, the use of propaganda in mass media served the interests of the ruling class and therefore was an ideological state apparatus to transmit their ideologies (Althusser, 1970). This subconsciously forceful yet subtle way of presenting an absolute truth has had successful ties to political regimes and has led to many destructive wars and conflicts throughout and ongoing history. Unlike propaganda, social and political marketing more so influence consumers about political issues (O’Shaughnessy and Henneberg, 2002) and therefore are less inclined to perceive citizens as passive slaves adhering to ideologies. Although on the surface these differences appear credible, the complex nature behind the different motivations that drive propaganda or social and political marketing have blurred the boundaries in which they can explicitly be defined. In order to critically analyse the nature of the differences between the former and latter, the essay will explore the similarities between the uses of propaganda and social and political marketing in relation to frames and appeals. It will then analyse the impacts of propaganda and argues how this differs to social and political marketing and lastly, the essay will address the different interactions used in both propaganda and social and political marketing.

Propaganda and political marketing can be said to be coexisting systems mainly because institutions (including political) have goals and propaganda contributes to the achievement of such goals (Moscovici and Markova, 2000). Propaganda has been negatively associated with the strategic manipulation of cognitions (Smith, Laswell and Carey, 1946) and the calculated deception of ideologies that are professionally executed (Arendt, 1973). This is clearly demonstrated in the case of Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign which employed the use of populist framing in order to gain political support from American voters and –using Arendt’s (2004) definition of propaganda- to prompt a permanent adjustment or displacement of reality. More specifically, Trump’s ‘Stop the Caravan’ political campaign insinuated the ‘crisis’ of illegal immigration with the caravan metaphorically referring to the large pool of Mexican immigrants and hence successfully attracted votes from republicans who saw them as a threat. This ‘displacement of reality’ is therefore embedded in Trump’s exaggerative idea that illegal immigrants are taking up all blue-collar jobs (Appelbaum, 2016) in America and his framing of illegal immigrants as “undocumented criminals” (DelReal, 2016) reinforces a propagandist way of transmitting ideology within a political context –the use of exaggeration is also one of the key characteristics of propaganda highlighted by Corner (2007). Therefore, Trump’s technique of manipulating the content in order to shape the context leads to Laswell’s (1934) idea that we (or in this case, Republicans) are “peculiarly” dependent upon propaganda in times of crisis; Trump’s political agenda provided an absolute truth and solution for the republicans and it successfully did so on the basis of trust and intimacy rather than the rational content of communication (Corner, 2007). O’Shaughnessy (1996) mirrors and extends this idea claiming that we live in a ‘post-truth’ world with many pluralistic beliefs, each believing that theirs “speak the language of truth” (O’Shaughnessy, 1996: 59). Because of this post-truth world, the truth has become detached from reality because it has been so manipulated and therefore it is now up to propaganda to define what the truth it. Ultimately, this depicts how propaganda can be embedded in political marketing, which uses conceptual foundation of marketing theory such as framing strategies to apply to non-profit political exchanges (Henneberg, 2002).

Further to the idea of framing, the ‘Stop the Caravan’ political campaign calculatedly employs episodic frames solely focusing on the narrow issue of immigration and disregarding the wider American social context; because society is exposed to so much mass media, episodic messages have become the norm and Trump’s episodic portrayal of illegal immigrants takes advantage of a ‘promotional culture’ (Corner, 2007) making it harder for us to wrap our heads around wider contextual messages –we hence inevitably turn our attention to the negative portrayal of Mexicans. Therefore, by using episodic frames in political marketing, it powerfully shapes the way people interpret and think about a presented issue (Frameworks Institute, 2002) and overall the way they organise the world –it serves Trump’s interests by narrowing the blame to immigrants for the current social situation we are in. The advert also mirrors the fast-paced tone of documentaries investigating criminals which creates a false sense of urgency in capturing these ‘undocumented criminals’, also serving the interests of the Republican party by heightening the urgent need for political change. As a result, the use of frames in Trump’s presidential election campaign is not only a clear example of how propaganda and political marketing techniques overlap but draws parallels with Corner’s (2007: 676) idea that the “play of power over meaning is now routinely exercised in ways too complex and subtle (through framing) to be captured by the ideas” alone.

On the contrary, it could be argued that the impact of propaganda is much more powerful, deeply penetrating the lives of citizens rather than simply raising awareness and gaining votes from supporters as in the case of social and political marketing. This is evident during the Sino Japanese War in WII, where war propaganda reflected an absolute truth and ingrained way of life for the Japanese rather than a political solution for social change –it linked to the Japanese culture of “death before surrender,” and therefore glorified death as an honourable sacrifice for the Emperor (Tierney, 2006). This means that, propaganda unlike social and political marketing transmitted the idea of serving the Japanese nation and instead of explicitly and publicly marketing this, the use of propaganda insinuated to the Japanese people that they should independently take it upon themselves to do so through a sense of obligation. This was achieved through subtle forms of control. For instance, Kamikaze pilots were not only instructed but expected -out of their own will- to carry out suicide attacks and not doing so was an act of selfishness and transgression of the nation’s cultural norms (Tierney, 2006). For this reason, unlike social and political marketing which is characterised by consumer sovereignty whereby citizens can freely and actively decide on which ideologies to consume that they think is best for them (Hutt, 1931), the use of war propaganda in Japan already lays out the basis of what is expected from the Japanese and it is incontestably expected of them fulfil this. Ultimately, propaganda aims to “transform the heterogeneous thoughts of individuals into those of a homogenous collective mind of the masses” (Markova, 2008) rather than being made up of multiple individual choices in a free market as with political marketing.

In addition to this, it achieved using fear appeals to tap into the subconscious impulses of Kamikaze pilots, a negative emotion that is accompanied by a heightened physiological arousal (Gore et al, 1998: 36). More specifically, it stimulates the fear of not delivering their duties and ‘returning alive which would make superiors angry’ (McCurry, 2016). As a result, this illustrates how the use of propaganda in Japan differs to social and political marketing, which involves a more upstream marketing approach, surfacing customer’s latent wants and underlying desire that they cannot articulate fully (O’Shaughnessy, 1996). For Japan, it could be argued that there is no such thing as ‘latent wants’ and ‘underlying desires’ because soldiers had to be conditioned to suppress their emotions and die unquestionably for their Emperor. This is further supported by the images used in Japanese war propaganda almost all of which included the ‘rising sun’ symbolising the Japanese flag and reinforcing national pride and commitment. The images themselves are less explicit in terms persuading people on how to act unlike social and political marketing but implants the idea that you must always serve the nation. This links to Herman and Chomsky’s (1988) idea that propaganda is effective precisely because of the emptiness of the slogan and images used to promote military service; the fact that it can mean anything distracts us into thinking about more deeper meaning. The choice of the name ‘kamikaze’ also translates to “divine wind” further glorify the soldiers as the brave and chosen ones and as a result empower more Japanese men to partake. Therefore, the use of propaganda in Japan employs a more interpretive way of promoting an un-spoken requirement of what you should do which undeniably differs to social and political marketing.

Moreover, Kotler and Zaltman (1971) define social marketing as the “design, implementation and control of programs calculated to influence the acceptability of social ideas” -they make a distinction between selling objects and selling social ideas. Therefore, there are parallels between the intentions propaganda and social marketing, both of which are concerned with selling ideas and achieving social change and both which are characterised by persuasion. Bernays (1928) for instance, tried to detoxify the word ‘propaganda’ and systematically translate the techniques of propaganda such as manipulating cognitions (Jowett et al, 1992) into social marketing based on the idea that ‘if you can use propaganda for war you can certainly use it for peace’ –he manipulated the masses into buying things they subconsciously desired rather than things they needed. This is because he does not consider human behaviour as having high rational intellectual capacity thus consequently using propagandist techniques enabled him to shape and “crystallise public opinion” (Bernays, 1928). However, unlike propaganda social marketing attempts to target a smaller group of people in society which gradually increases as the social idea spreads whereas propaganda is directed towards a mass audience from its initial stages through a more closed, monologue form of interaction between the leader and follower (Markova, 2008). Nonetheless, social marketing looks at the cause and effects of the individuals (downstream influences) and the structure of society and who controls it (upstream influences) (Hastings et al, 2000) compared to propaganda which solely focuses on downstream influences. For example, social marketing strategies have been applied to sustainability issues such as climate change to target governmental and political leaders as well as raising concern for the wider context in ‘macro-system’ (Brofenbrenner, 1977). For this reason, it clearly illustrates how upstream (targeting the government) and thematic (acknowledging the wider context) approaches overlap by focusing on the social context of the individual and as a result reinforce the difference social marketing’s flexible use of both upstream and downstream approaches versus propaganda’s predominantly downstream approach.

On the other hand, unlike social marketing and propaganda, Henneberg and Omrod (2013) propose the idea that political marketing is characterised by more than just a dyadic relationship between the transmitter of the idea (political group) and receiver of the idea (voters). Rather, they argue that “political exchanges are open and characterised by interlocking dyadic interaction structures”, including the parliamentary political interaction and most importantly the governmental political interaction which “permeates every social, cultural, economic and legal aspect of the life of citizens” (Henneberg and Omrod, 2013: 92, 95). Therefore, they criticise the traditional political marketing structure of focusing solely on the narrow electoral interactions and deriving assumptions from this about the wider political exchange (Henneberg and O’Shaughnessy, 2009) and acknowledge the complexities between political exchanges.

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In conclusion, although the essay has drawn out similarities between elements of propaganda and social and political marketing, the differences in the way they frame their messages and transmit their ideologies as well as who they target maintains a separation between the overall nature of propaganda and social and political marketing. More importantly, what makes the former and latter different is whom the hands propaganda falls under –propaganda in the hands of politics tend to be toxic and in the hands of marketers tends to be less destructive. Ultimately, propaganda and social and political marketing carry more differences in terms of the context it is used. Therefore, it is more appropriate to say that propaganda and social and political marketing coexist dependently in practice and overlap in their techniques than concluding them as identical systems of transmitting ideology.

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Propaganda, Social and Political Marketing. (2024, February 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 20, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/propaganda-social-and-political-marketing/
“Propaganda, Social and Political Marketing.” GradesFixer, 13 Feb. 2024, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/propaganda-social-and-political-marketing/
Propaganda, Social and Political Marketing. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/propaganda-social-and-political-marketing/> [Accessed 20 Jul. 2024].
Propaganda, Social and Political Marketing [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Feb 13 [cited 2024 Jul 20]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/propaganda-social-and-political-marketing/
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