“Our Brand is Crisis”

¡Si se puede!” Yes, you can!


In the most crucial election at the time, Bolivia was suffering another decade of poverty, high unemployment, and corruption. This documentary, “Our Brand is Crisis”, returns to the country’s most crucial election and demonstrates how the marketing of a political campaign caused the country to suffer a severe backlash. This illustrates vividly just how powerful and manipulative marketing can be in the realm of politics.

Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (his supporters called him ‘Goni’) put together a group of American experts in campaign marketing tactics, in an effort to have him elected as Bolivia’s next President. In order to achieve this, his team put together a series of focus groups, interviews, and negative campaigns against his main opponent. Goni was to pursue his dreams of turning the country around.

How were they going to win the vote of the people? They were going to brand crisis. By doing so, Goni’s team was going to empathize with the Bolivians to create the change that was so greatly needed so that the country could prosper and move forward. By opening up to a vulnerable population with speeches full of hopes and dreams, Goni wanted to tap into the Bolivian population by listening to them, and understanding them.

In times of crisis, people need hope. And when they need hope, the people tend to lean towards a new candidate. Consequently, part of the plan was to create a negative campaign against the opposing candidate, Manfred Reyes Villa. They researched whatever was needed about his life such as lies and scandals, and used it against him.

A good message contains the following: 1) simplicity, 2) relevance, 3) repetition. The message must be stated creatively, exclusively, and relentlessly. Though this was done and the people were finally convinced of Goni’s plans for positive change, they weren’t convinced for long.

Goni ends up winning the election. So what happened?

Six months after the election, Goni didn’t keep his promises—no changes were seen by the people. There were still no jobs. Before he knew it, Goni had the military keeping the roads clear after the people filled the roads with stones creating road blocks. Soon, protests began to break out.

The people wanted to see their President traveling around their country throughout the villages talking with the people so that the people’s voices are heard. That’s all they wanted, and it was simple and sincere. But Goni said he didn’t have the time to do this. They were promised prosperity, and the government didn’t deliver. They were told their new President was like them, this obviously wasn’t true. They were told, most importantly, that their President wanted to listen to them—he just wanted their votes.

Soon after, Goni resigned in 2003 and fled to the United States, following deadly protests in which over 100 were killed—his presidency lasted a mere 14 months. Carlos Mesa became the next President in 2003. Seventeen months later he, too, resigned. Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous President, came into office in 2006 and remains their current President.

Just like marketing any other product, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. If you market a false product, you may win some first time buyers in the beginning. But after that, if people are fooled they will find out and they won’t deal with your product anymore. This situation is no other—if you don’t deliver what you promise, people will not remain in peace—their voice will be heard.


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