Marketing Lessons from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”

The legend Saul Alinsky himself (Wikipedia)

The legend Saul Alinsky himself (Wikipedia)

The Trump election that just passed was fantastic and regardless of which side of the game you are on; it was easily one of the most dirtiest elections ever.

I really got into this election from many levels and from the time I heard Trump was going in; I called it that he was going to win.

Interestingly at this time, I was introduced to Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” (with thanks to YouTube Sargon of Akkad).

Saul Alinsky was born in Chicago from Russian Jewish parents and he was a powerful community organiser. From the 1930’s onwards he was a ‘Community Organiser’ that basically helped the poor and underprivileged take on the establishment to create societal change.

Where his name became of interest to me was that Obama was mentored and trained by those who studied under Saul Alinsky’s thinking. I was pro-Obama for various reasons and if you go back to his campaign – you will see Obama really using his ‘Change’ idea as a radical way to capture the American heart (and their votes).

Alinsky’s thinking was definitely used more for the ‘Left’ side of politics but what was fascinating was that the Trump campaign used lots of Alinsky’s rules to win and get the upper hand. During his retirement he wrote is famous book “Rules for Radicals”.

Straight from Wikipedia the thinking included:

  1. .“Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.
  2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.
  3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news.
  8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.
  10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.” It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.
  11. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.
  12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.
  13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

What made me bring this all up? One of my awesome friends who I have great respect for was having work trouble. I referred them to Saul Alinsky and told them I would write a blog talking about the rules.

The inspiration I get from this ‘Communist’ thinking is how one can take over society and create massive change. Talking more marketing and entrepreneurship; sometimes it’s us against ‘the world’ and there are some great ideas that can help us.

My favourite from a marketing viewpoint is:

– Rule #6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.

The more we love our marketing tactic is the more we will do it, the more we get successful at it and the more clients we get.

My advice and thinking? Studying marketing is great, but we can learn some great inspiration from other areas. Perhaps we as marketers need to become our own form of ‘radicals’.

Love your work, thank you for the read and massive thanks to my awesome friend who is going to shake up their workplace!