How To Make A Poster Image That Works? A Look At The 11 French Presidential Election Candidates

Round 1 of the French presidential elections was historic in one regard, in that it saw two non-mainstream candidates — Macron and Le Pen — get through to the final round (May 7). In other regards, however, it just felt like yet another French election campaign and result. And, I wonder if we will not end up with another five years much of the same, regardless. With my marketing eye, I tried to figure out how the marketing messages might have helped or hindered in this first round.

French presidential elections — a question of personality

Above all else, one has to agree that the French presidential elections — with 11 candidates presented at the first round — are all about individual personalities, much more so than the political parties or even their programmes. In a strictly controlled environment where all 11 candidates are supposed to get exactly the same amount of media coverage, it’s inevitably hard for the electorate to really separate out who says what. So, I wanted to take a look at the marketing work done through the candidates’ posters that were constantly displayed together in batches of 11. See here a short description of each of the candidates.

Marketing via the poster

Just by looking at them, is there one that attracts your eye most? Typically, I’d have to believe it’s the bright red Poitou. But is there anything else that strikes you about these 11 (put in the order 1 to 11 that was prescribed by the official draw)? There was one thing that really struck me.

poster french presidential election candidates

Yes, I looked at those who chose to look left or right or straight on and who was consistent in that regard. I also looked at the de rigueur blue tie (or none). But, the big thing for me was that, of the 11, only 3 offered a proper smile. The other 8 have a neutral or stern look. Not exactly winners of the charisma awards. Of course, the Presidency is a serious position to be vying for, but it’s as if the requisite grumpy passport photo (an obligation in France) was used. Only Mélenchon decided to show us that he needs his glasses!

The colour spectrum

In terms of aligning their message with the French tricolour flag, there were two bona fide leftists in red (Trotskyist, anti-capitalist). Three chose a plain white background, but the majority (six) took to the “reassuring” blue background, including the firebrand candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was backed by the Communist Party. Both Le Pen and Dupont-Aignan (Stand Up France) used a left-to-right graduated blue background, moving toward a somber/stormy right. Mélenchon decided to use a cloudy graduated background (bottom-to-top).

poster french presidential election candidates 2

With five of the 11 candidates having presented themselves in the 2012 elections, you would have thought these might have improved with experience. But, in reality, most of these candidates know from the beginning that theirs is a lost cause, just a way to pollute and/or dilute the airwaves for the main candidates. The bottom seven candidates (including the “major” Socialist Party) pulled in a grand total of 15.1% of the first round vote.

Slogans – How effective?

Following the ‘prescribed’ order above in the first image, and maintaining the punctuation, the eleven candidates squared off in an attempt to own a space in a crowded field. Five decided to keep the word France in their slogan. Two of the slogans (The time has come and A historic choice) astonishingly say absolutely nothing. Five of the slogans convey energy or strength. The far left targeted the business/financial world.

poster french presidential election candidates 3

Overall, I was left to feel perplexed by the communication choices and messages. How does one make head or tail or the choices? Clearly the centrist Macron managed to capture the middle road in all aspects. His slogan was an all inclusive: France must be a chance/opportunity for all. It was also the longest.

Running Down The Middle – Please Everyone?

Noting that his movement was called En Marche (aka Move Ahead), Emmanuel Macron who obviously embodies it all, will have a titanesque challenge to rally the country (much less the legislative body) behind him, bridge the hefty cleavages and manage real change without breaking rank with both the right and left that surround him and without whose support he will go nowhere. Is it possible to run down the middle, attempting to placate everyone and yet get something accomplished? Let’s just, first, make sure he gets past the next hurdle on May 7. Then rendez vous in 2022.

Your reactions and predictions?

“Rather draw than withdraw” IamCharlie

#jesuisCharlie

“Rather draw than withdraw”

 

My second contribution to the Charlie Hebdo Massacre. #iamcharlie Iamcharlie

To all the cartoonists who bring to life the issues and challenge of our daily existence.

Here is my first one: “It’s a pen I want, not Le pen”

President Hollande – There’s a Hole in your Trustworthiness

The latest scandal in France with President Hollande, regarding his First Lady-cum-Second-Girlfriend-cum-Three’s a Party, has brought to the forefront the divide between personal and professional life. In France, the refrain is frequent: what’s personal is private. It’s considered the French touch, a cultural heritage. In an environment where trust is lacking and in a technologically enabled era where transparency is basically a conduit to trust, President Hollande’s secret tryst has made a mockery of the Office of the President.

Trustworthiness in leadership

In evaluating President Hollande’s management of his personal relationship, I think it absolutely matters in terms of gauging his trustworthiness. Not that ‘cheating’ is criminal, but it is certainly not encouraged at school, nor is it admirable or the basis for any solid long-term relationship. Moreover, for his team, it unquestionably has an impact on how they must view him and his sense of fidelity. In an ‘All Boy’s Club,’ maybe that type of behavior will be hammed up in the locker room. But, for a team including women, that has a sense of pride and from whom the leader is looking for total heart and soul commitment, this type of cheating will inevitably have a bearing. Even if it is not officially said to be important, the behavior speaks volumes.


I can only believe that this video above is not legitimate. Surely, with so few views, it’s a fake. But it certainly feels the part!

A Hole in Hollande’s Trustworthiness

I do make parallels between how Hollande managed this affair and what attitudes business leaders need to adopt in order to garner greater trust and to inspire and motivate the workers (or citizens) to follow the vision. In the army, if a soldier doesn’t trust his commander, he won’t feel good about taking the boss’ orders. I tend to believe the same is true of any leader. Sure, one might execute obediently, but the extra step, the extra energy will not be there. I would argue that the President of France has a gaping hole in his trustworthiness. It was there before the Gayet scandal erupted. Now, he has the trust of his very own team to recuperate before even thinking about the trust the population might have put in him.

Trust is intangible but relies on actions

Similarly, in business, engaged employees who live and work around their leader, for at least 8 up to 12 hours a day, need to feel that their leader is trustworthy. In such close quarters, I would also argue that employees will — at least subconsciously — also take note of his/her personal ethics. It’s not possible to separate the two, especially as it regards trustworthiness. If France has made a conscious decision to want to separate private and professional, it comes — at least in part — from its heritage of not wanting the King’s riches and decadence to be generally known by the masses. The French upper crust invoke the code “to live happily, it is better to live hidden.” This is just not a way to garner trust; especially in an era of widening transparency.

Voting for Whollande

For François Hollande, he has shown us throughout his career an inability to commit. What is true in his private life is also true in his public (political) life. Is it not obviously consistent? The natural extrapolation would be that if he treats his First Ladyfriend with such trickery and arctic coldness that he might operate the same way at times with his own team? And, for the electorate, it’s all very well “saying” you don’t care about his private life; then, why did Closer, the magazine that revealed the affair, sell out in the first day? Why has television been galavanting on about the ongoing tryst? Is it not because what is personal is the singular backbone of personality? Politicians, much like CEOs, are mediatic figures. They must accept to live in the limelight. I would argue that they must bring their whole person with them. And, it so happens in a world where digital media helps reveal and spread news, being transparent and demonstrating consistent integrity are the right way to go to build trust, a trust which in polls around the world is so lacking for politicians, business executives and marketers alike.

Ironically, now that Hollande is shifting from Socialist to Social Democrat, personally I am grateful for this latest switch; but will it last?

Daft Punk, The Myndset Digital Marketing & Brand StrategyBTW, is it not beautifully coincidental that the helmeted Daft Punk is a French band that just scooped the Grammy Award for its album? They clearly have the wind in the backs….

P.S. I participated in a “debate” on France 24 television following the press conference at which Hollande was grilled about the Closer revelations.  In case you are interested, here are the YouTube recordings (in two parts): Part 1 and Part 2.

Your thoughts?

Words are so revealing: Time says it all!

WIth my long-time love of words, especially when it comes to translation, I thought about how the French translate the word “timing.” The word the French use is “delai” or “delay.” How ironic!  Certain words can have such a way of explaining a culture.  And, since the way we view time is tantamount to the way we view life, anything dealing with TIME is of particular interest. {Click to Tweet this}

french timing - http://www.bedbathstore.com/eitowacl.htmlWhen the Anglo-Saxon talks about the timing for delivery of a product or service, the French refer to the delay.  It’s almost as if we’re inviting the retard, non?

What does that make you think? Doesn’t it give a whole new meaning to the “Parisian 15 minutes,” where the cool Frenchman (aka the dude to the right) is welcome to be late?

Your thoughts, please!

The unfair weather knell of democratic politics

Water rain - The Myndset Brand StrategyWe are in changing times (once again) and I must say that the picture reminds me of the grey and rainy may day (ie. help!) we are having in London (au Secours #RadioLondres), on this Monday, May 7, 2012.

As of today, we now have:

  • Hollande in France, voted in by 51.7%
  • Samaris of the New Democracy party in Greece with 18.9% vote, introducing  a very new form of democracy
  • Putin of United Russia with 64% of the vote as the returning President in Russia, ushering back in an echo of Russian democracy
  • …not to mention the weekend’s local/regional elections in the UK, Germany and Italy, where the incumbents were regularly whipped or wiped out of office.

A major year for elections

These elections alone have been rather momentous.  And, ahead, there are many more parliamentary and presidential elections to which to look forward including Egypt in end of May, India (in July) and USA (in November)… [You can view the entire list of elections in the world in this Wikipedia entry.]

It was a busy week of voting for me, too.  I voted in the mayoral election in London as well as the Presidential election in France (via “procuration”).  I will also cast my vote in the US elections.

For what purpose?

But, with all these elections, it leads me to pose two questions:

  1. how much do people expect the world to change thanks to politicians?
  2. how much productivity is negatively impacted in a country during the year of elections?
On the first point, I have long been a proponent of the Ayn Rand determinist school of thought, so I would much rather take matters into my own hands, whenever possible.  If you are in business, then I think there is no better state of mind.  I am more likely to believe that democratically elected politicians can negatively impact business, rather than positively.
On the second question, if voters spent their time on constructive debate and pundits (and the media) provided more reasoned and well-researched arguments, perhaps an election would be grounds for real debate and progress.  But, between media airwaves that are spent on unsightly negative political (and personal) attacks, flaring emotions in bar rooms and pubs and vapid political debates, there seems to be too much wasted breath (and time) during political campaigns.

The political cycle

The problem with democratically elected officials is that, by definition, they must over promise to get elected.  Yet, with clockwork predictability, unexpected events occur and plans are derailed.  By mid term, the electorate systematically becomes impatient and sanctions their elected leader, making the last half of the term a lame duck.  The arc of democracy consists of high expectations and dashed hopes.  Would that we all got down to the business of taking responsibility for ourselves rather than waiting for Godot.

Review of Hugo Cabret, the film – 3 truths from my point of view

Not the film of all time

The_Invention_of_Hugo_Cabret, from the Myndset

Part biography, part novel, part compendium, part flip book!

To ring in the new year, we went to see the new Martin Scorsese film, Hugo, based on the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. This 2 hour+ film did not seduce me on the merits of the direction, plot or acting. I thought of it more like a nostalgic film for the film industry. At best, Hugo is a film about time, rather than a film of all time.  However, the “picture” — as in the cinematography — was at times delightful. Being in Paris and having been a student of film at university, I can appreciate the desire to recover and repurpose archival film and the wonderful creativity of Georges Méliès. The film does a good job of reinserting old film into a new context, which I am going to assume was one of Scorsese’s primary motivations for making the film.

Oh yes, there was one other thing: vocabulary.  The charming young Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) spent the entire film showing off her good English vocab.  I smiled, thinking that maybe some kids would pick up some words.  Only problem, there was no clickable link through to the dictionary to verify the meaning!

The collateral messages

Meanwhile, if I may not have been overly thrilled with the writing and some of the acting, I did have a few “moments” in the film, where my internal message center lit up.  Here are the three parts to the film that did ring true for me:

  1. Find your North.  I like to use the expression, “to find your North”, because we all need a compass to guide us, especially through these turbulent times.  As the film explicits for the film industry, we sometimes yearn for the nostalgia of the “good ‘ole days,” filled with tradition and, yet, synonym of rejecting change.  I particularly liked the passage when the small boy, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) says to his co-adventurer, Isabelle, that in machinery every piece has a purpose.  And, Hugo and Isabelle, being a part of the world’s machine, have their purpose, too.  The point is find one’s purpose, or one’s North.
  2. Storytelling.  A common theme these days for brand marketers — because brands need to learn how to tell a story to which its customers can relate — storytelling has long been monopolized by the cellulose film industry.  As was exposed in a delightful TEDx Marin speech by Robert Tercek, we as a culture have handed over the reigns to Hollywood to do the storytelling for us and that it is time for us to take storytelling or “personal narrative” back.  Dreams and storytelling are what films can bring to us.  But, we should all be allowed to have our individual dreams in real life (IRL) and to be able to tell our stories (blogs and more…).
  3. The French smile.  The Station Inspector of the brilliantly reconstructed Quai d’Orsay train station, is played by the ever surprising Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Borat and Ali G.  Not the nicest of Station Inspectors, but certainly up there with the quirkiest, the French Inspector is not good at smiling.  As the film goes on, he develops a repertoire of 3 smiles with which to seduce the flower girl.  I’m not sure how intentional this was, but it certainly made me think of the French lack of propensity to smile in a happy way (as opposed to a smirk), much less to laugh.
My daughter (12) thought the film was too juvenile for adults (based on the dialogue and plot), while my wife thought the film was too “old” for children because of the rather dour, nasty and somewhat depressive nature of some of the characters.  Appropriate confusion.

I’m not going to make you go out to see the film with this review.  The film has its moments and I enjoyed Christopher Lee as the librarian, Mr Labisse, and Ben Kingsley as Georges Melies.  Kingsley, whose birth name was Krishna Bhanji, typified a rather international crew.  Hugo is a touching tribute to old film with a couple of poignant moments, but not well enough written to have more than 2.5 out of 5 rating.

Wave that [French] flag!

Is France doing some media marketing?

It seems that this week, France has managed to capture the bulk of the headlines in the press in the international section.  And there is a captivating, if not liberating theme!

  1. The liberation of the two French France Television journalists, cameraman Stéphane Taponier and reporter Hervé Ghesquière, after 18 months (547 days) in captivity at the hands of the Taliban
  2. The captivation of the world’s media with DSK scandal in NYC and his potential incarceration
  3. The nomination of Mrs. Christine Lagarde (N.B. her name = The Keeper), current Minister of Economy, as the first woman at the head of the IMF {BRAVA!}
  4. And, finally, Tsonga’s cuffing of the Feds in SW19.  A brilliant come from behind.  Roger looks like a prisoner of ghost’s past!

Is it just because I live here in France that I think that the French marketing machine was on overdrive?  If France were a brand, is this a good way to be top of mind on the world’s stage?  Your thoughts?

France loves to strike where you least expect

Got to love this. Pôle Emploi, the agency in charge of dealing with the unemployed (currently riding at 9.7% in France) is going on strike. Not enough resources to go around they claim, and now they are planning job cuts for 2011. Pole Emploi will, in effect, add to the ranks of the unemployed; a little ironic. It reminds me when the unemployed in France went on strike (actually they just manifested) saying they wanted more benefits.

The Greying of the World – Enough to make you go grey!

Not that it is supposed to be ironic, but below is a grey newspaper clipping with dark grey text, shaded columns and a light grey contour on a white background… Lots of nuances in those greys! Take a look at the graphic below, which is taken from the Herald Tribune of October 16, 2010 (source is the UN Population Division, assuming medium fertility in each of the countries).  It is perhaps a concept with which we are all familiar; but, a picture can tell a thousand words, literally. Continue reading

Seth’s Blog: Heroes and mentors & role models…

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Heroes and mentors

Mentors provide bespoke guidance. They take a personal interest in you. It’s customized, rare and expensive.

Heroes live their lives in public, broadcasting their model to anyone who cares to look.

The internet has created a long tail of heroes. There are tens of thousands of musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, social leaders, politicians (okay, maybe not thousands of these), coders and colleagues to find and emulate. WWHD. What would my hero do? Continue reading