I once had a conversation with a friend of mine, who told me about her grandfather who lived through Mussolini’s Italy and believed it was the greatest time of Italy’s history. One could immediately dismiss such thinking as antiquated thinking of a befuddled old man. However that still doesn’t hide the fact that extremist states were formed with the collective permission of their citizens, and that die-hard attitudes fascists was a thing during the closing years of World War 2. Maybe it was the economic benefit, one of the “lucky few”, me and my friend (thankfully) weren’t there to witness it. My personal opinion? That Hitler and Mussolini were popular for creating one of the most compelling narratives of their generation.
Extremist Narrative uses backstory
Any good story needs a strong backstory and setting from which to add depth and action upon. For example Sherlock Holme mysteries require the crime, while Lord of the Rings needed the detailed lands of Middle-Earth. The rise of far-right and far-left parties and leaders would not have occurred without external and internal threats and uncertainty.
Let me explain, consider yourself the average German, or Italian, the World War has destroyed your empire or weakened you greatly. Even worse, your economic and political stability is in jeopardy. The age of empires is over, then along comes a guy, who offers a solution that doesn’t blame you but some other group and all they have to do is support him and lead a country to greatness. For segments of the population, this is the narrative they want to believe, because it fits with their understanding of the world.
In marketing, research is important because research finds the customers that will tune in with a company’s narrative and their offerings, and be most willing to engage with said marketing.
Extremist Narrative takes Action
All narratives need action to keep the plot moving. A extremist state needs to be proactive in keeping their citizens excited (or at least distracted) from their shortcomings. This is almost some military distraction.
Leaders will always see a bump in their popularity at the start of any war, even more if the war is not too long and is won. In the years leading up to World War 2, Italy and Germany engaged in minor wars i.e. Italian invasion of Ethiopia or German reoccupation of the Rhineland, with popular support behind them. A war has a comfortable plot arc, a villain and (if victorious) a happy ending. That ties into one’s sense of achievement if you are part of said victory. In marketing providing action, content or some experience to customers is necessary to keep people engaged and excited for any brand.
Extremist Narratives are focused
It’s rare to find a narrative that is for everybody, and even the most broad of narratives such as Disney films will be met with indifference at best with the population. Hitler never won a fair election through popular support, neither did Mussolini. However they received enough support to take power through undemocratic means, and maintain said power by those who were devoted to them until external forces removed them.
Take Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes it’s poorly written, yes there are strong undercurrents of sexism and just soppy fan-girling, but for it’s audience (the sizeable audience that made EL James rich) it’s their narrative that no matter how a successful and handsome man can fall for a plain girl.
Hindsight is 50/50 and while fascism is often met with scorn, looking at it in hindsight is the equivalent of understanding Harry Potter by reading an academic essay on the series. You’ll understand Harry Potter but won’t experience the magic of the words. Hitler and Mussolini may have been the greatest dicks of the 20th century however they created a compelling narrative for those who served them loyally.
In Marketing, it’s impractical to market one’s offerings and brand to the whole population. Instead the best way is to find the narrative archetype of those who would find your brand most appealing and engage with it. Marketing is not Extremism but the rules of narratives remain the same.