From brutal border enforcer to daggy dag: ScoMo’s reinvention
- October 16, 2019
- By Admin: Stephen Bergh
- Comments: 00
KEVIN Rudd dumbed down his vast vocabulary, Julia Gillard reportedly had voice training and multi-millionaire Malcolm Turnbull donned a trendy leather jacket to look relatable.
Now, newly minted Prime Minister Scott Morrison is in the midst of a reinvention to be seen as a run-of-the-mill daggy dad from the suburbs who likes a beer at the footy.
The image many Australians have of him — the hard-nosed, uncompromising and suit-clad gatekeeper of our borders and detention camps, then the holder of the nation’s purse strings — is out.
In its place are comfy caps and polo shirts, talk about meat pies, photo opportunities with his wife and kids, and the repeated use of phrases such as “fair dinkum”.
“I think every time a new PM is elected, they go through a rebranding stage — not just in what they wear, but sometimes in the way they speak and engage with others,” image consultant Alarna Hope told news.com.au.
“For some, it’s more obvious but it’s always from the angle of making them look more relatable. They’re not only in a powerful position but have a personal brand with a heavier weight than what they had before.”
In the lead-up to the next election, which polls suggest the Coalition will struggle to win, how the prime minister is perceived will be critical.
THE CLOTHES MAKE THE PM
During his first official trip as PM, Mr Morrison toured drought-stricken Queensland and met with struggling farmers.
He was one of the only people not wearing a wide-brimmed Akubra — the hat of choice for city-based political leaders when they head bush.
Instead, Mr Morrison donned his now trademark cap. It raised eyebrows among pundits in the media, but was a masterstroke in cementing his “real” approach.
Leaders such as Ms Gillard and Mr Turnbull, unlikely to ever wear an Akubra by choice, looked unnatural when doing so, whereas the new PM opted for what was his normal.
Michael Hughes, managing partner and strategy director at Truly Deeply, said the image of political leaders is carefully shaped by party powerbrokers.
“In the past, it used to be about a strong leader who had a big vision that people looked up to and were inspired by,” Mr Hughes said.
“More recently, it is more around how their profile can be shaped and positioned to appeal to the most people possible. The aim is to offend as few people as possible. This drives up their popularity in the polls and hope this ultimately translates into votes.”
Mr Morrison is unlikely to rock up to an international summit or Question Time in casual attire, but a balance between the business and the casual will be finely struck.
Attempts to soften his appearance and make his appeal more mainstream will see him ditch the tie where possible and roll up his sleeves.
“The chosen attire can often be based on the objectives of that individual and their party — and more particularly the social demographic they are trying to impact and influence,” Dan Thomas, founder of the consultancy Image Doctor, said.
“Scott Morrison’s current ‘daggy dad’ image may have been intentionally sought out to (help him) appear more relatable to the common man and in tune with the day-to-day challenges and struggles of middle-class Australians.”
You can expect to see that “daggy dad” brand more and more, Ms Hope said.
It’s a subtle way of tapping into themes that are important to voters, at a time when messages are harder to get across.
“In the current climate, I think whoever advised him to dress this way has considered some of the major issues Australia is facing, like the drought, and are aiming to have him appear more like the average Australian, look more budget-friendly and like what he’s wearing isn’t his main focus,” she said.
It’s also a smart way of differentiating him from his predecessor Mr Turnbull, the Point Piper PM known for his enormous personal wealth.
“At the moment, if our Prime Minister was to appear looking too sharp, some of the public concerns might be that Morrison’s focus isn’t on rising to his new responsibilities,” she said.
FAIR SHAKE OF THE SAUCE BOTTLE
Mr Rudd, a career diplomat fluent in Mandarin, developed a reputation for longwinded speeches that the average punter required a dictionary to translate.
And thus the gradual appearance of now-iconic phrases designed to make him seem relatable.
Although how effective some of those more forced slang terms were — including the now infamous “fair shake of the sauce bottle” phrase — is debatable.
It was so sudden in its appearance and stilted in its use that Mr Rudd’s opponents, including Tony Abbott, seized on it.
Mr Morrison’s first few weeks in the top job have seen him use more relaxed language, including the phrase “fair dinkum” several times in media appearances.
Morrison seems to be working his way through the folksy down-home phrase book cliche by cliche, like Abbott with his dated and grating “fair dinkum”. With Morrison it was have a go and get a go, and now it’s Let kids be kids. I wonder what it’ll be tomorrow.— Dr Kerryn Goldsworthy (@AdelaideBook)
When he took the top job, an email went out to Liberal Party supporters in the new prime minister’s name. Or rather, his catchy nickname.
It was signed off with “Scott ‘ScoMo’ Morrison”, signalling that the new leader is encouraging others to use the more informal moniker.
But not a lot of encouraging was required. ScoMo as a reference to the PM has caught on in countless pieces of commentary and media stories.
Following backlash, the ABC told its journalists to use Mr Morrison’s full name.
Nick Enfield, professor of linguistics at the University of Sydney, told the ABC that ‘Scott Morrison’ is a “totally bland” name.
ScoMo adds some glitz, he said, citing a trend made famous by Jennifer Lopez — “it transforms it into it a marked name”.
BACKGROUND AND PROPS MATTER
The old saying goes that a picture paints a thousand words, so often what’s not said is just as important as the actual optics.
During his haphazard attempt at a coup, Peter Dutton gave a sit-down interview with Sky News in which a picture of his kids was strategically placed in the back of the shot.
This was no doubt an attempt to soften his well-known reputation as an unflinching Home Affairs Minister who has delayed or denied the medical evacuations of seriously ill refugees, including children, from island detention centres to Australian hospitals.
On Sunday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten shared a picture doing the groceries with his daughter on Father’s Day.
A giant box of Corn Flakes was unsubtly placed in frame in the trolley.
Even on Father’s Day the weekly shopping needs to be done. Always more fun with our youngest daughter pic.twitter.com/lD6UjdVMTv— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp)
And Mr Morrison’s first television interview with A Current Affair was at home, where he and his wife Jenny, sat relaxed on the couch in their living room.
Few, if any, of these images are accidental in a climate where political branding is more important than ever before.
“Malcolm Turnbull’s pre-political success and the subsequent financial windfall that afforded him a lavish home, nice cars and expensive holidays were all elements that created an image that many every day, middle and lower-class Australians may not have been able to relate to,” Mr Thomas said.
Political offices contain ‘advancers’ whose job it is to scope out every element of a media event ahead of time.
They canvass participants to ensure they’re friendly, examine the background to avoid any potential embarrassment, choose spots with the best light and plot speedy exit routes should they be needed.
“Absolutely nothing is accidental,” a former high-level political advancer told news.com.au.
“Remember that shopping centre walk-through with Abbott where someone got a shot of him outside the Reject Shop, and the image became Abbott’s face with ‘reject’ in the background? That advancer should’ve been sacked.”
Election campaigns have become promotional tours for candidates, where journalists are ferried to locations — usually they don’t know where until they depart — and asked to broadcast what they’re presented.
This increasingly stage-managed nature saw The Courier-Mail newspaper abandon the traditional campaign trail during the 2012 Queensland Election.
Instead, they embarked on a “people’s tour” to seek out the views of ordinary voters on the major issues being thrashed out.
Mr Morrison is a marketing guru, who headed the powerful body Tourism Australia and is credited with green-lighting the Lara Bingle-fronted ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’ campaign.
He would be well aware of the importance of image, and a willing participant in the multifaceted exercise to overhaul his.