I make car parts for the American working man, because that’s who I am and that’s who I care about. A message from Dan Aykroyd’s portrayal of Zalinsky, the American auto part king, in the popular American film Tommy Boy. A message most Americans remember because its simple and effective. Most Americans may also be aware that the successful presidential campaign for Vladimir Zelenskiy took advantage of our digital age (some will say it rivaled Obama’s once renowned online presence), some may even go as far to say they know that he used simple messaging that replicates that of the Autopart King and our very own Donald Trump. But, if you really want to look smarter than your friends at the next dinner party, let’s examine the campaign’s subtler details, some underlining psychological aspects which helped this campaign succeed.
For those who are familiar with the image of Jay Gatsby reaching toward the green light hanging at the end of the Buchanan’s East Egg dock, you will understand the genius behind Zelenskiy’s main campaign color. For those who do not know, this is a point of debate, some will say this color represents Gatsby reaching towards hopes and dreams, while others would be more scrupulous and say he is reaching towards that which he is envious of. No matter your take on the Gatsby association, rest assured, social psychology have also wrestled with color theories for millenniums, but the themes related to the positive attributes of this color include: growth and vitality, renewal and restoration, and self-reliance. This leads even the most self-aware to be gravitated to his banner. And, yes I am also aware green was selected because his name is similar to the color green in Ukrainian, but that does not negates the colors affect on the human psyche.
In the other corner, his competitor and the primary color scheme choice of Poreshenko’s campaign, purple. The color associated with power, nobility, luxury, and ambition. This is actually more intriguing than Zelenskiy’s choice, because for someone who is trying to shed his oligarchical shield, it seems like Poreshenko’s campaign did not think through the Tsar’like color. Unless, interestingly enough, they were counting on the submissive nature of those still holding onto their nurtured desire to be controlled by a ruling class. As Gordon Ramsey would say, “spices in the pot, done. Okay, now let that stew for a few minutes.”
Let’s also examine the design of Zelenskiy’s campaign logo, which very much resembles the logo ‘Ukraine Now’, the official logo representing the Ukrainian government. A logo that has ironically been pushed to the public by the Ukrainian government since 2018. Implicit-association tests, are used by social psychologist at Harvard University and designed to detect the strength of a person’s automatic association between mental representations of concepts in their memory. The main idea is to make a response easier when concepts are closely related and share the same response key, in this case, the key being the design. Purposeful or not, again, Zeleskiy’s campaign hit a home run. Its ability to connect with local men and women proved to be its greatest strategy.
Whether we like it or not, as social behavior has proven, simple messages work. A candidate does not even need to present clear legislative suggestions, all they must do is possess a showman’s (or, woman’s) gravitas. Although we cannot predict the future of Ukraine, we can recognize that Zelenskiy ‘the showman’ is now Zelenskiy, the President of Ukraine. The curtains are drawn. Perhaps we will see a transparent after party full of positive growth, or perhaps this is only the first act, and we will need to sit through two more acts of showmanship and brace for the show’s producers to make their magic in hiding.
*These are the opinions of Richard J. Roman and do not necessarily reflect those of any other organizations