After a nearly three months, it’s hard to say if anyone is entirely clear on what the call to action is with the Occupy movement. Have they lost their mojo after that initial demonstration on Wall Street?
Their most tangible and visceral message, encampments in cities around the country and the world, have not only lost their clout, they’ve become a health hazard and tiresome cliche.
The various demonstrations and marches that tepidly disrupted Black Friday felt ragged and messy. In many cases signs are illegible. If you’re going to go to that much trouble to write on a piece of cardboard, at least make it so people can read it.
On numerous occasions, demonstrations and encampments have become almost embarrassments with random nitwits, vagrants, and hooligans coming in and confusing the situation.
So the question is: now what? I say some branding is in order — that’s because a political or social movement IS a brand. It requires the same development and marketing that one would apply to anything where one hopes to gain a following.
1) Cultivate leadership. As much as many in the movement have decried the need for a leader, it seems like leadership is just one part of what’s missing in making Occupy truly revolutionary.No matter how anti-establishment, any organization looking to build momentum and grow its constituency must find its leaders who can help give a unified voice and message.
2) Craft a manifesto. The fact is, every great revolution or political movement has had leaders and a clear manifesto. The Civil Rights movement of the ‘60’s had Martin Luther King and Malcolm X; the Women’s Liberation movement had Gloria Steinem. These were grassroots movements that targeted demands and, while sometimes violent, were able to clearly voice a process for change.
A clearly articulated manifesto would unite all Occupy movements around the country (and around the world) with a strategic call to action and program for coordinated demonstrations, speeches, as well as open forum discussions with city, state, and financial services organizations.
The Medium is the Message: in advertising, less is more — except when you have a really big piece of cardboard.
3) Develop a marketing and brand strategy. A movement like Occupy must have a clear strategy that includes how it is branded as well as its key marketing messages and deliverables. What does it stand for? What will it accomplish?
A protester in San Francisco’s Union Square, November 27, 2011.
In the case of Occupy, it has become unclear just what they are doing and what it is they want. We understand that the movement— quite correctly — places much of the blame on the banks. However there has not been a strategic plan for how the movement will continue forward, with a cohesive message that everyone from the elite to the proletarian can understand – whether they agree or not.
4) Communicate a call to action. I get it – you’re a “startup.” That doesn’t mean the medium is not critical to the message. As with any marketing campaign, there is a tagline, and then what follows is a series of other memorable messages that are tied to action. How is that going to be communicated, beyond bedsheet banners and scraps of paper? Why hasn’t social media been used as the powerful (and free) tool that it is to drive home a manifesto and call to action?
5) Be bold. Embrace dissent. Spearhead measurable change. Hanging your hat on the encampment can’t be the single means for communicating your message — one that is powerful for a growing number of Americans who are finally realizing that they are indeed the 99-percent. Unfortunately in the minds of the media and the general public, the encampments are simply a passive sit-in that lacks creativity and doesn’t give confidence in its inhabitants to truly generate positive ideas for the evolution of our economy. Champion discussion and create visible change that proves what you’re doing is right. Start your own credit union. Create a socialized marketplace for goods and services.