Hopefully you've managed to finish the third season of House of Cards. But even if you haven't, the snippet of episode five that I'm about to detail isn't much of a spoiler. If you haven't watched any House of Cards... I don't even know what to say. Just... Robin Wright.
Frank Underwood understands the power of stories. Think of his insistence that Russo leverage the recovering addict angle (lesson: vulnerability can win people over if it's balanced with strength and courage), or the reason he decided Zoe was a valuable ally (lesson: stories act like silver bullets if you manage to shoot first). It's as if he were flexing his marketing muscles throughout seasons one and two only to sink his teeth into the meat of his agenda in season three. At this point, as president, he's desperate to get the public on board with his America Works program in time for re-election. He again turns to the power of stories:
We need to sell America Works.... We need more than ad buys. We need the philosophy behind it, we need something of substance.... We need something that will capture the imagination.
He's talking to the writer who will carry out his next marketing maneuver: a book about the program he hopes will redeem his presidency. His point? Advertising isn't selling. Advertising is a tool people use to establish brand recognition and create buzz. But everyone already knows about his program; that's not his problem. The problem is getting people to buy in--selling the America Works program to the American people. So, what is selling if not advertising? Selling is persuading. You can't persuade people without words, and, as Underwood notes, it doesn't require overt manipulation. All you need is a story that's authentic and personal:
No sales pitch, just your honest curiosity.... I want something different, something unique--your voice.
While Frank Underwood typically demonstrates how political and marketing machines utilize manipulative tactics for persuasion, there's no denying the efficacy of his story strategy. I look forward to justifying my House of Cards binge habit with marketing wisdom again next year.