Why We’re More Discerning About Denim Than Politicians
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Why We’re More Discerning About Denim Than Politicians

March 27, 2017

Gareth Schweitzer

Kelton President Gareth Schweitzer takes a closer look at the reasons why lack of choice is so prevalent in American politics today.

Most of us spend a hell of a lot of time thinking about what kind of jeans we should buy. We research the product, looking at fit, materials, cost, and style. We look at the brand; what it stands for, who wears it, how the product is made, and what statement we’ll be making when we strut out in public. We then cross reference those jeans against multiple other brands and styles until we land, assuredly, on the right fit. It’s a deliberate, time consuming process to make an educated buy. And when the brand or product performs as expected, it builds trust – which in turn makes us come back, again and again.  

Constant disappointment has put trust in American government at an all-time low.

Contrast this with how many of us choose our politicians. We most certainly don’t look at new brands (there aren’t any, and most of us don’t even consider the ‘other’ party); we source our evaluations of the candidates largely through mediums that reinforce our existing predispositions. So I think it’s a fair question to ask today – are we more discerning about jeans than politicians? 

That isn’t to say we care more about the jeans. It’s to say that we’re more judicious in our choices. We’re let down by the end result vastly less often – and when we are let down, we actually make a change and buy a new brand of jeans. Modern politics is a cycle of endless disappointment in which we willfully ignore reality, and rarely if ever change our voting behavior. That constant disappointment has put trust in American government at an all-time low. The triumph of hope over experience reigns supreme. 

Donald Trump nailed the need to experience politics in a way that felt hyperlocal, and personal.

Why? It’s not the absence of ideology in the world of brand. That’s more present than ever. Here are two potential explanations: 

The first is the visceral, tactile experience of consumer products and services. They’re literally engrained in our lives; you touch them, feel them, and experience them. That invested experience builds trust, which teaches us to be even more discerning because we see the payoff – a better experience the next time.  

In contrast, politics today couldn’t be more distant. Tip O’Neal’s statement that “all politics is local” couldn’t seem further from the truth. Donald Trump nailed the need to experience politics in a way that felt hyperlocal, and personal. It’s largely why he won – he is nothing if not visceral. But politics is spinning in almost a reverse cycle from consumer products. Because Trump will likely (and has already begun to) disappoint the people who voted for him, he’ll end up adding to the sense of desperation voters feel. As trust diminishes, hope will continue to win out over judgement.    

We’ve got a lot of options with jeans. With politics, we don’t.

The second reason is quite simple – choice. We’ve got a lot of options with jeans. With politics, we don’t. Voters need real choices, and that means the process of gerrymandering districts to protect incumbents should be a mainstream issue, not a sub-plot. How good would your jeans be if there was no competition? How discerning would you become if that one brand of jeans had repeatedly failed you, without apparent new options? In lieu of that, we may increasingly become a culture which trusts brands over politicians, becoming more discerning (and rewarded) by the former, and less discerning (and disappointed) by the latter.