Thursday, July 25, 2019

Sell the Sizzle, Not the Steak

Robert Mueller’s testimony Wednesday on his investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible conspiracy and obstruction of justice by Donald Trump, his campaign and administration reminded me of one of the first tenets of successful marketing I learned when I started covering retailing back in 1977: 

“Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” Presentation, not taste, was more important in restaurants trying to capture consumer acceptance. The concept applies to almost all consumer goods. Watch most automobile ads and you’ll see what I mean. Car ads sell you a feeling, an experience, not an actual product.

Sadly, watching or listening to a 74-year-old man dodder his way through six hours of grueling and grilling testimony, roughly half of which was intended to pierce his patriotic professionalism in defense of our country while his detractors defended a would-be despot, was an exercise so painfully depressing Gilda and I independently had to turn off the broadcasts we were tuned into in separate rooms, she while doing her yoga, I while eating my breakfast. 

Bob Mueller was no 34-year-old John Dean testifying cooly and controlled before Congress about a “cancer” growing on the presidency of Richard Nixon. Of course, most of the country wasn’t alive back in 1973 when Dean testified during the Watergate hearings while his wife Mo (Maureen) sat pertly and stoically behind him, her blonde hair pulled back tightly in a bun. 

The substance of Mueller’s findings were already known from his 448 page report. Anti-Trumpers wanted bold vocal confirmation that obstruction of justice had taken place in the Oval Office, that Russia had compromised the election. They had to settle for a less powerful than hoped for performance. 

Pro-Trumpers—in other words Republicans and the man himself—reveled in the optics. They claimed no verbal knockdown meant they won the day, ignoring Mueller’s assertion his report did not exonerate Trump from a charge of obstruction and that once he left office he could face prosecution. 

For those who didn’t tune in for all six hours of testimony, their take on the proceedings came from their main news outlets. So their views were reinforced. 

Few minds, I would think, changed opinions on the matter. You either like Trump or fear for our republic. 

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