A bottom-up perspective on the transatlantic relationship: Why most people have become less interested in the transatlantic relationship and how effective communication and branding can help motivate people for higher level of engagements
While most people would agree that the transatlantic relationship is quite relevant for both countries’ welfare and for the global political stability, less people feel intrigued by the idea of getting actively involved in this relationship. But there is a chance that a more thoughtful communication and branding strategy can help increase the interest of the general public. This essay lays out the main three reasons for the limited interest to participate in transatlantic relationship building and proposes potential solutions based on branding approach.
While there might be manifold reasons for people to not get involved into transatlantic relationship building, once can clearly identify three major trends that drive a growing disinterest.
Firstly, Politikverdrossenheit: In other words, being tired of politics is a phenomenon that has been growing both in the USA and in Germany. While political engagement and active involvement was perceived as a necessity in the generation of today’s grandparents, generation Y tends to take security, peace and progress in their microcosms for granted. Neither polity (the area/ institution of a government), nor politics (political activity in a polity by various actors), nor policies (output of politics) have experienced higher levels of engagement – unless someone feels directly threatened by a certain policy. However, this rather leads to a “negative” engagement, i.e. being against certain policy-making as protests again TTIP have shown. However, most people rarely feel severely threatened and therefore, the average individual tends to disconnect and disengage from political activities. A similar trend also applies to the transatlantic relationship that has almost only received “negative engagement” – but rarely supportive engagement by individuals or civil society.
Secondly, there is lack of clearly communicated areas of common interest among transatlantic partners in the media. Especially now, that the Trump administration has increased political uncertainty in the transatlantic relation, the common points that were once identified as the strong pillars for the transatlantic relationship (e.g. NATO) seem to fade away. Since “normal” people prefer to avoid conflict it is only logical that their political participation in the political field declines – people rarely want to be connotated with quarrelsome individuals.
Thirdly, perceived exclusiveness of those engaging in transatlantic relationship leads the greater share of the population to turn away from these opportunities. Many of the projects (such as exchanges or academic travels) for High School students or university students are simply not accessible for everyone since they oftentimes require a certain level of investment, as living abroad might cause higher expenses. Even though scholarships are available for that purpose (e.g. Fulbright), the selection criteria are usually quite strict. Students either need to be one of the top performers in their class or they must have achieved something else extremely valuable for society (e.g. founding a charity club etc.). The signal sent by these criteria is fatal, since the inclusion of more people in transatlantic relations is discouraged as most students think that they cannot fulfil the criteria anyway.
Having a more profound understanding of the factors driving growing disinterest in transatlantic relations helps to identify the starting points for branding and communicative strategies:
- Deploying a real brand as a communication tool. To this point, there is no specific “brand” of the transatlantic relation in place. Creating a proper brand in the first place is a necessary precondition to communicate effectively with the general public. A more sophisticated communication strategy can be built upon a strong brand that is recognizable, appealing and inclusive.
- Communicating simple but clear content. For a brand to become effective, it is vital that the content to be conveyed is consistent and (at the beginning) limited to the most important common points among the transatlantic partners. This obviously requires a discussion among transatlantic partners with an agreement of the top 5 priorities for the future. The brand must be focused on the most important points simply because the average individual is supposed to have a surprisingly short attention span. Referring back to the paper “Transatlantic Relations in a New Era: The Next Generation’s Approach”, the next step in the process for effective communication starts with a break-down and prioritization of the most important chapters. To increase reorganizability, the introduction of a uniform logo and a mascot can be a critical success factor.
- Choosing a multi-channel brand approach. Not only the content of the actual branding approach, but also the channels used to introduce the new brand are crucial factors for a successful communication agenda. With regard to the channels, besides classical areas like offline branding through events and flyers offered by various institutions, choosing digital channels will leverage the reach of the transatlantic message. Digital channels include for example social media (e.g. facebook, snapchat, twitter), classic homepages and affiliate articles on other websites. Showing increased presence in online channels will not only help to reach a broader audience, but also it will help the transatlantic relationship lose its conservative image and to be perceived more up-to-date and more fun. Even though some of these channels are used already, the opportunities used so far only represent a fraction of the full potential. In addition, positioning the adequate content in the respective channel is of course crucial. Overall, this communication and branding approach can help to reduce the illusion of exclusiveness and more people feel encouraged to actively participate in building a transatlantic relation
To conclude, a more sophisticated communication strategy through active branding can help to turn around the increased disinterest in transatlantic relation. Building up a brand in the first place, making it simple and concise and spreading the words through multiple channels will be crucial factors to reach more people and the increase interest in transatlantic relations among more individuals.