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A brief history of political propaganda & marketing – Part I

— Intro

Eventually regarded as a contemporary phenomenon, political marketing—and its theoretical elements—may well date back to ancient times. Through the centuries, from its embryonic phase known simply as mass propaganda, political marketing has reached its present state, where it has become a set of structured activities planned to work a political entity or idea into a product, aligned with the advent of modern day technologies.

Although, these days, it seems to have ultimately developed into a mix of mediatic events coupled with psychological manipulation, the truth behind the history of political marketing indicates an important co-evolution with the notion of leadership itself—after all, what is the point of being a great leader if nobody knows about it?

— Early leaders and the birth of political propaganda

The pharaohs of ancient Egypt would have gigantic pyramids built to show their power and spread their legacy not only in life but after death. General Julius Caesar would arrive in Rome after his battles in what would later become known as Triumphs, military parades organized by him and his followers to extol the achievements of the great warrior who became Emperor. The Roman ceremony was conducted within a framework of majestic carriages and awe-inspiring Roman temples, bringing a sense of greatness to the rite, conducted before the plebs.

In ancient Greece, politicians devoted endless hours to the practice of the art of oratory, to exercise their gifts and persuade their peers to support their points of view in the grandiose Greek Senate.  Triumphs and the great Egyptian architectonic monuments were nothing but a perfect example of early mega political propaganda. Hasn’t public speaking become a quintessential element of the science of political marketing?

The fact is that, without science and technology, propaganda and political marketing would hardly have evolved—and neither would the social phenomenon of leadership. Since the dawn of human civilization, the history of political propaganda and, later on, of political marketing has been closely linked to the advancement of temporal techniques and their ability to approximate  the governor and the governed. As an example, when Guglielmo Marconi invented the radio, he was basically thinking about communication between ships but, as years went by, politicians also found his machine to be of great usefulness.

For instance, in 1925, Mussolini was one of the first politicians to effectively use the radio for a total mobilization of the masses and to develop a personality cult around himself (the Duce) by conveying the message of himself being the sole common denominator between the various political groups and social classes within Italian society. Hitler, on the other hand, made a more extensive use of film, not only through his energetic speeches, but by sponsoring a whole new Nazi film industry, one which would exalt the Germanic “race” and deeds.

 


Caio Franco Mitidiero (Master in Political Marketing)

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