Mohawk Founding Partner Ken Muir believes it’s not the What but the Why that has given the Scottish Yes campaign so much momentum.
The challenge in advertising is often to make people care about things they previously didn’t think about, for example the need to take out life insurance or what particular brand of toothpaste they’ll buy at their local supermarket.
There has recently been a truly inspiring case of galvanizing a broad audience to think about and discuss a subject, which had previously been the territory of a small minority.
This blog has been written before polling day but, whatever happens, the campaign for the independence referendum in Scotland has been a triumph for the Yes vote.
I believe that the reason for this is that they have tapped into emotions where the No vote has attempted to rely upon reason.
Where one party has discussed the details and pointed out the problems associated with independence, the other has focused on creating a vision where people can feel differently about themselves.
Compare the speeches by Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling as an example.
By transforming the discussion from one about the technicalities of a new Scotland to one that is about liberation and the dreams of the Scottish people for a better future, the movement has tapped into a much greater source of power for motivating people.
This is, of course, what all the best ad campaigns do, with Apple’s legendary advertising campaigns for iPhone and iPad being an excellent example.
Where IBM and others talked about what’s inside the box, Apple tap into what’s inside your head. A clear explanation for why this works is given by Simon Sinek in his TED talk.
Sinek starts with the golden question of “Why?” He claims that people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it.
Leaders sell ideas or beliefs that empathise with people’s needs or dreams and, if this empathy is strong enough, they will buy into it and support it. And this is exactly what the Yes campaign has managed to achieve in Scotland.
The ability of the campaign to turn otherwise passive people into vociferous advocates of Scottish independence has been remarkable.
On my travels recently in Scotland, I heard people saying things like “We’ll be better off without the English” (a position that’s debatable) and even “We don’t need banks anyway” (a position that seems to me to be bordering on crazy).
All this in the face of an onslaught of ‘advice’ and comment from business leaders, industry figures and economists (and even David Beckham!) suggesting that the long-term economic prospects for an independent Scotland are somewhere between dire and desperate.
No matter what side you vote(d) for, the Yes campaign has been a clear winner in delivering an inspiring message which has the potential to change the political landscape in the UK forever.
Whether there is any substance behind all of the powerful rhetoric and emotive statements is, of course, a matter for another forum altogether.
Ken Muir is Founding Partner at Mohawk.
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Last updated 18/09/2014