Saturday, April 28, 2018

A close look at Kevin Stine and Julian Bell

Candidate Julian Bell and Kevin Stine define and market their brands.  

They don't have money to spend, but they have a message with focus. Sometimes that is better.

Click: Kevin Stine's videos
This blog has offered this advice to all candidates. Don't bother saying political platitudes (i.e. that you love children and hard work and the American flag.) People tune that out. The only thing you communicate with political happy-talk is that you are a politician who says boring, unbelievable things.

Tomorrow, this blog will look at a campaign video that does exactly that, showing a candidate saying nothing. But today we look at two candidates who actually make the most of a bad situation, the videos by Kevin Stine and Julian Bell.

Julian Bell and Kevin Stine have a big problem. They are not particularly well known, nor do they have money to get well known. That is a formula for losing.  

Julian Bell is visible in climate action circles, and he ran for governor against Kate Brown, but neither made him a household name. Kevin Stine is a Medford city council person, but in the current media environment with hollowed out news organs, Medford council people do not become well known. (Stine, to his political credit, has built a reputation for accessibility with the local TV station reporters and with the newspaper of being available and quotable, so he is the best known of the eight council people.

Bell and Stine use their videos to sharpen and build their brands, and Bell has gotten some visibility by paying Facebook to "boost" their exposure. Their videos hammer out a mentally sticky message. 

"Stine did everything he could"
Kevin Stine: Veteran. Housing. Working people. Stine communicates that he is a veteran, proud of his service, who cares about housing and the problems of working people and does something about it. 

Stine's videos have no consistency of format, other than home-made simplicity. They have a video camera pointed at the subject, either recording the subject talking or hearing Stine in voiceover.  But the message in them that is unmistakable. 

He has a testimonial ad, "Jamie." The woman is a veteran saying she has PTSD from sexual trauma, and that Stine helped her. She looks authentic and persuasive, still damaged from her experience. The grittiness of the video leaves a strong impression. So this is who he works with. So this is who he chooses for an endorsement. Not a high-status businessman or politician, but a woman in pain. This video affirms the Stine biography and story. Stine isn't a secure member of the prosperous professional class and his work doesn't address the problems of comfortable progressive professional in big offices and homes. He works with real people--people who live like the renewed Roseanne on TV, people who are thought invisible to the political class, but visible to Stine and other Americans who live paycheck to paycheck.

More poor people than rich people
The contrast with Jessica Gomez could not be more direct.  Gomez's introductory ad is filled with beautiful people in prosperity, in technology clean-rooms, with big bright smiles. Stine's ad shows poverty and problems in natural light. The median individual income in Jackson County is $27,523. The median household income is under $50,000. Jackson County looks more like Kevin Stine's video than it does Gomez's video. Kevin Stine is talking to the majority, not the minority. 

His video's give a mentally sticky image.

Stine is the young guy, a veteran, a good guy who cares about regular people, and helps them get a place to live. 

That is a good brand for him.

Julian Bell has moved from being the single issue candidate of climate change into a different, more broadly focused one. His videos--and his talk at a public forum in Ashland and on a public radio interview show--now include promotion of a state bank as a potential solution to multiple Oregon problems, including PERS, education funding, infrastructure development, and housing for low income people. Bell has a consistent look to his videos: a close up of Bell speaking right to the camera, presenting a serious explanation on a serious subject.  

Click: Featured Video for Bell
Bell sounds professorial: Oregon collects tax money which are the equivalent of checking and savings deposits in a commercial bank. Oregon can lend them out for financially and socially productive causes, earn interest, borrow against those assets to pay current bills, and earn profits for the taxpayers rather in the way any large commercial bank would. Rather than be a client of Wall Street, Oregon would replace Wall Street.

Some viewers will think it is too good to be true. Some will question whether Oregon will be any better at banking than was Lehman Brothers or Citibank. But the videos cement an impression that makes Bell memorable: he is the serious candidate with a business plan, who takes the time to explain his policy to us. No nonsense. This affirms a mentally sticky image for Julian Bell: 

Bell is the serious doctor guy who explains his ideas on climate and a state bank

This is a good brand for him.

Click: Against Pipeline
Stine and Bell have defined their brands. Voters will know whether the candidate seems appealing or not. Voters who wants a regular guy who does the gritty work of helping poor people get a place to live have their candidate. Voters who want a smart guy with a plan have theirs.

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