Time for a little confession on my part; I have a real soft spot for creative thinking when it comes to protest or making a point. Whether if I agree with what’s being protested or not, I can’t help but be fascinated by out of the box ideas to make a point or making creative use of the tools that one has at hand to make it. Not only can it be effective, it’s a truly resourceful approach that I can’t help but pay attention to.
Having worked on campaigns for the NDP in the past, I really came to appreciate this ability because of the lack of resources we sometimes had. Sure I got to be involved with many full resource campaigns where we had all the money we could legally spend on hand, but where you really learn how to run an effective campaign is when you have very little to work with. That’s where you learn to be creative, milk every ounce you can out of every penny and get a lot done with nothing. And sometimes, that involves taking creative steps to make a point, getting you much more attention than a big budget ad campaign ever could.
With all of that in mind, I came across a story today that not only speaks to this creativity but also speaks to a bit of rhetoric out there that has bothered me. New Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole won his new job running on the slogan of “Take Canada Back”, parroting a lot of Donald Trump’s language in the process. Of course the question this slogan always leaves is “taking it back from whom exactly?”, a question that never gets answered. It’s a slogan that plays on certain fears and surely doesn’t play to the best angels of our nature. So how to take on such inflammatory language and slogans? Well that’s where this story from the National Observer comes in with a creative approach that made me stand up and take notice:
Wow, I have to tip my hat to this group of youth who have decided to try this. It’s an idea that uses existing laws on the books and is so very simplistic in a sense; if you want to stop someone from using a slogan, trademark it to get ownership over it and stop them from using it. For me, this is beautiful on two levels. First, it’s a nice piece of legal jujitsu on the part of these youth, using the laws on the books and working them to their advantage.
But the second part is just as important, the fact that most campaigns don’t think to trademark their slogans. Just as how for the longest time many parties and candidates didn’t buy up all internet domain names to prevent spoof websites from going up, parties just don’t think to trademark slogans like these. It’s a blind spot that someone noticed and decided to exploit here. If they are successful in this attempt, it will not just stop the Conservatives from using that slogan without some kind of legal or financial consequences; that’s the nice short-term impact of this move if it works. It will also force parties to change their practices and actually go and trademark all of their slogans and such going forward.
It’s innovative and creative protests like these that force parties to continue to innovate going forward. The ultimate beauty of this story is that it will likely only work this effectively once. After pulling this off one time, it removes the element of surprise and smart party operations will take the necessary steps to ensure they don’t get caught with their trademarked pants down in the future. Sure it could work again if parties don’t do their work, but that would be completely their own faults.
So I’ll be watching this story going forward with interest to see if this creative gambit pays off for these youth. They thought outside the box and came up with a creative way to make their point while putting a potential dent in the rhetoric of a political adversary. I can’t help but tip my hat to that effort and we’ll see just how it turns out in the end. In the meantime, I’m sure that most Canadian political parties will be getting more familiar with trademark law as they now work to ensure they aren’t the next ones to find themselves subject to this tactic. Because if they aren’t, they’ll surely find themselves as being the next ones to face what the O’Toole Conservatives are facing now.