Occupy Wall St.

Where does Occupy go from here?

Kai Ryssdal Nov 17, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: It’s Thursday, the 17th of November, or as the Occupy Wall Street protesters would prefer we say, the Day of Action.

In New York City this morning, hundreds of people — if not more — blocked streets near the New York Stock Exchange. They moved down into the subway for the evening rush hour.

Protesters marched here too, right through downtown L.A., a block and a half down the street from Marketplace HQ.

Protesters: We are the 99 percent!

So, a couple of things happened. Streets and stores were closed. People couldn’t get to work on time.

Jenna Brown: We’re actually working at the L.A. Auto Show right now, so we can’t get to the Convention Center. I would say they’re a nuisance here on the streets of L.A.

That’s Jenna Brown from Orange County. But asking around among the protesters, we heard a lot of this:

Protesters: I think that is what a protest is supposed to do; it’s supposed to get some attention. So if it makes people take notice, that’s the point. It takes people getting arrested, businesses being hurt to get attention, it doesn’t deter us at all — it galvanizes us.

This might turn out to be the week for the Occupy movement. Now that they’re not actually occupying anymore, they’ve taken to the streets with their message. But how far can that go if part of the 99 percent — people who by and large sympathize with the Occupy message — are losing patience?

There are people out there whose jobs it is to help businesses answer those kinds of questions. They’re called brand managers, marketing consultants, political operatives in some cases. We got some of them on the phone for a little Occupy advice.

Martin Lindstrom’s the author, most recently, of a book called “Brandwashed.”

Martin Lindstrom: A successful demonstration always is a demonstration when you can relate to the people, where you feel empathy. You feel either sorry for them or you feel, ‘That could have been me!’ But when you start to go out and stop the traffic or create a mess in the business lives of other people, that’s where suddenly it very quickly turns around.

Every branding person we talked to said, first things first: Clarify the message.

Sasha Strauss teaches brand strategy at the University of Southern California.

Sasha Strauss: That’s the beauty of a well-established brand story, is that people can remember you and refer to you effortlessly. And that’s the challenge with Occupy.

Marketing consultant Dan Roam suggests they rethink some of their terminology.

Dan Roam: From a kind of a large, historical perspective, an occupation is typically not something that’s met very well by the natives, and it should come as no surprise that Mr. Bloomberg should move into Wall Street, which is his native territory, and move the occupiers out.

Finally, says an old political hand, there’s something else. Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform — he of the ‘no new taxes’ pledge.

Grover Norquist: They could learn from the Tea Party movement, which was a movement based on fear — fear of too much government.

Of course, all this free advice probably isn’t something protesters want to hear. Here’s Sasha Strauss one more time.

Strauss: I know that branding feels corporate, sounds like a, ‘Let’s monetize the Coke can’ concept, but the fact is that it’s simply about explaining to the world who you are and why you matter in terms that everyone in the audience can understand.

I don’t know if it can be that simple, though.

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