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Wednesday 31 March 2004

The Return of G. Clotaire Rapaille

More John Kerry stuff.

It appears that the Kerry campaign has hired G. Clotaire Rapaille as a consultant.

We at Tinotopia have run into Clotaire once before, when we looked at a story about SUVs by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker. In that story, M. Rapaille featured prominently:

Over the past decade, a number of major automakers in America have relied on the services of a French-born cultural anthropologist, G. Clotaire Rapaille, whose speciality is getting beyond the rational — what he calls “cortex” — impressions of consumers and tapping into their deeper, “reptilian” responses. And what Rapaille concluded from countless, intensive sessions with car buyers was that when S.U.V. buyers thought about safety they were thinking about something that reached into their deepest unconscious. “The No. 1 feeling is that everything surrounding you should be round and soft, and should give,” Rapaille told me. “There should be air bags everywhere. Then there’s this notion that you need to be up high. That’s a contradiction, because the people who buy these S.U.V.s know at the cortex level that if you are high there is more chance of a rollover. But at the reptilian level they think that if I am bigger and taller I’m safer. You feel secure because you are higher and dominate and look down. That you can look down is psychologically a very powerful notion. And what was the key element of safety when you were a child? It was that your mother fed you, and there was warm liquid. That’s why cupholders are absolutely crucial for safety. If there is a car that has no cupholder, it is not safe. If I can put my coffee there, if I can have my food, if everything is round, if it’s soft, and if I’m high, then I feel safe. It’s amazing that intelligent, educated women will look at a car and the first thing they will look at is how many cupholders it has.”

Ooookay. Anyway, G. Clotaire Rapaille’s advice to the Kerry campaign? That Kerry needs to act ‘less French’ and to give more ‘one- and two-word answers’ to questions. He also was advised to buy clothes from K-Mart, and to spend time in bars drinking from bottles.

To a French “medical anthropologist”, that’s what makes an ordinary American: being short with words, poorly-dressed, and uncouth.

With political advice like this, how can Kerry fail to inspire the electorate? He’s a shoo-in!

Posted by tino at 14:04 31.03.04
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Le snorte.

Reminds me of Sargent Shriver buying a round in a West Virginia coal-mining town: “Beers for everybody! And a Courvoisier for me!”

Some people just don’t get it. The fact that Kerry has to hire a French cultural antropologist to teach him how to be more American speaks volumes.

Posted by: Twonk at March 31, 2004 05:20 PM

I have “reptilian responses”? Eeeewww. And that business about the cup holders and breast milk is just … ick.

Posted by: Sue at March 31, 2004 09:24 PM

Unfortunately, the dimension brought up by Rapaille is American indeed. Powell recently asked Devillepin, then minister of the interieur in France, to “stop his poetry”. To the French, his speech was “normal”…to many Americans it sounded like poetry. If you understand French, listen to any speech from the French political scene, and compare the way of addressing the audience with G. Bush’s.

The now famous: Ladies and gentlemen, we got him”..is purely American. No way any other government in Europe would have announced it this way, but rather. “it’s a great day for terrorism today etc…..

Posted by: Jeff at April 2, 2004 08:28 AM

So Rapaille’s advice to Kerry is that he should beat Bush by becoming more like Bush? I hope Rapaille isn’t getting paid much.

George Bush — either one of them — is an almost unbelievably inarticulate man. It is important not to confuse, though, Americans’ tolerance for inarticulate-ness with antipathy toward the well-spoken.

Posted by: Tino at April 2, 2004 08:49 AM

Rapaille was right. Kerry lost because he wasn’t seen as masculine enough, was too cerebral, sounded like he was reading a prepared speech. In other words, he failed to come across as a “real American”. He was even accused of looking French!

Marketers know what they’re doing, they’re the people who get us to buy foreign products even though we know it weakens us in the long term. They get us to drive cars that guzzle gas at a time of high gas prices. They get us to prefer Coke even though people prefer Pepsi if they don’t have the brand logo to stimulate their emotional brains. And the best thing about marketing psychology is, it works even though the public thinks it’s nonsense.

Posted by: at November 10, 2004 09:27 PM

I agree that Rapaille was totally on target here, although I don’t think you needed to be a highly paid corporate anthropologist to know it. Just for the record though, Rapaille works closely with something like 50 of the Fortune 100 companies. That’s the top 100 wealthist most influential companies in the world. These people aren’t going to just hire somebody simply because he’s eccentric. The man has a proven track record.

Posted by: tim boucher at December 14, 2005 12:29 AM