Defining Political Sentiment: Mainstream or My Stream?

The 2016 presidential primary season has shattered every expectation about the established process. From the retiree-aged front-runners to no political experience required, SNL skits have been unnecessary as the real events are so entertaining.

I am a party-unaffiliated independent, with limited interest in politics. Yes, I vote in most elections and worry about the macro issues. But I’m simply not passionate enough about the process or those who bravely dedicate themselves to public office to connect with either party.

Primary season has pushed forward and most of us have been surprised at Donald Trump’s persistent lead, given his freewheeling talking points. However, his tell-it-like-it-is, unfiltered approach seems to be resonating. And the Bern, in spite of his costly plans, has modest momentum. What is it about these upstart candidates that the public has found so appealing?

That’s exactly what establishment politicians are wondering. And these days, they’re getting nervous about potential outcomes. How can an outsider represent the conservative Republicans? How dare millennials, including young women, challenge Hillary’s chances in favor of a Democratic socialist?

Political pundits describe these rogue candidates as going against the “mainstream” particularly on the Republican side. But are they really challenging the mainstream, or just the traditional politicians themselves, who may be concerned about their own futures?

To test this theory, I reviewed mainstream’s definition against current events. A quick Google search listed the following terms as “mainstream.”

  1. Normal: I can’t dispute this one. What we’ve come to expect as normal or “business as usual” is certainly being challenged. But then again, isn’t it the voters – or the politicians’ constituents – who are raising their voices to challenge?
  2. Conventional: Neither Trump or Sanders is particularly conventional but they have amassed a substantial following, so perhaps they’re simply redefining the term.
  3. Majority: Here, I’m not so sure, as the fact that both Trump and Sanders are winning means some majorities favors their ideas and calls for change.
  4. Middle-of-the-road: I don’t believe that either party can claim to represent the middle-of-the-road. The natural tension between the blue and red is what enables achieving decisions and governing policies that work for most of us.

So I’m not convinced that either Trump or Sanders is really challenging the mainstream. Perhaps the mainstream is challenging itself and these candidates are helping chart that new course. Regardless, Trump and Sanders have engaged more interest during the presidential elections early stages than ever before, which is certainly positive – and not a particularly mainstream expectation! Remember to vote in your primary – and in November – and until then, enjoy the show.

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Brand X(tinct): Remembering CDs

On a recent Friday afternoon, I found myself trapped in my car creeping along with weekend-getaway traffic. If I’m driving alone, I can typically entertain myself with NPR programming and singalong radio. However, NPR was pretty stuck on covering the prior evening’s Republican presidential debate and “Shut Up and Dance” was seemingly the only song on most stations. So I decided to do something I hadn’t done in years – listen the the CDs I threw in the car when I bought it five years ago.

I don’t know about you, but Spotify is the only way I consume music. CDs seem so quaint, but has it really been that long ago since they were our main music source? Given that most of these CDs were personal playlists, I had no idea what I was in for. My musical surprises included my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding playlist, lots of U2 and workout pop tunes. Slipping the CDs into the player and scrolling through the recordings filled me with nostalgia, not just for the memories associated with each song, but for the reminder of the evolving styles of music listening over the years.

From boom boxes to 5-foot tall speakers, to CDs and walkmens, iPods, and now streaming audio, it’s all about the love of the song. And sing along I did — and eventually, I drove out of the traffic jam and got to my weekend destination — and plugged in my Beats Pill wireless for more music.

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Take a look around…

Years ago, I remember attending a presentation by a National Geographic photographer who advised us to “take a look around” and literally turn away from the obvious photo subject to consider other perspectives. And, he promised, a better picture would emerge. Applause to Bowdoin Museum of Art for taking a look around, and instead of assembling a predictable exhibit of home state Maine’s glimmering seacoast, their gallery show is titled “Night Visions” and showcases works of art representing the mystery of darkness. The show spans several centuries and features mixed media – vintage photography of NYC evenings, a rich array of paintings, woodblocks and sculptures, culminating with a 21st century video reminiscent of Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.”

Although visiting museums may not be on your “must-see” sights while vacationing on the Maine coast, think of this detour as a way to avoid sunburns or outlet shopping. This little museum does not charge admission, by the way (donations warmly accepted). Just sharing a little carmen sense; hope you get there!

Bowdoin Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine
Bowdoin Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine

Branded or Not

I’ve been in the marketing and communications field for almost 20 years, which means I spend a lot of time talking and writing, and thinking about brand experiences. I’m excited to launch my blog to hopefully have some new conversations about these topics. I’ll also weave in personal anecdotes here and there, and look forward to hearing from you.

So here’s the first of those branding stories. When we were house-hunting years ago, a charming 100-year old home caught our attention. Yet, there was one very visible issue – there was a sign hanging from the porch. Yes, this was one of those houses with a name. We were unsure if it reminded us of a bed and breakfast, or just seemed overly pretentious, but the bottom line, was although we loved (and ultimately bought!) the house, that sign just didn’t make sense. Except that it did.

We quickly learned that the house was named by the original owners to honor their homeland. And over the years, there has apparently always been a sign on the porch. So the sign was a brand name of sorts and reflected history and habit. It was the real deal, so we’ve kept it, understanding that it’s an element of the local community and offers a sense of place.

I tend to make decisions quickly, but I’m always willing to give things time to work themselves out. In this case, I’m glad that we did. I’m excited to talk about brand experiences and to learn from yours. Welcome to “Its Carmen Sense.”