Why did you choose the brand as your reading grid?
My point is not to say that we “sell” politicians like soap bars. The brand does not only have a commercial function. It is the ability to articulate a vision, a value system and narratives. Where marketing starts from the consumer, the brand starts from the project. It seemed to me to be an interesting reading grid to understand a new movement like macronism.
In your opinion, what values is the Macron brand based on?
Much has been said about “and right and left”. But Emmanuel Macron, in 2017, was able to articulate many contradictory values. He is both conservative and progressive. He is deeply republican, while drawing from the monarchical universe. He refers to General de Gaulle as much as to Joan of Arc. In my opinion, his campaign was built on the idea of the Neutral. A value, very well defined by the philosopher Roland Barthes in the 70s, which helps to thwart oppositions. Not in the register of confrontation, but in that of evasion. By opening a breach, a hope, the famous “third way”.
A political positioning that can be found, for example, in the choice of colors for its electoral material. Can you tell us how?
In French political history, the colors are extremely marked. Which one would choose a movement that wanted neither right nor left? At first, Macron made the choice of non-color, black and white. Then, instead, he decided to use all the colors. But some, like gray, yellow or green, have remained secondary, confined to mugs or T-shirts. And as soon as it came to establishing sacredness, especially on posters, only one emerged: blue. A color that does not attack, that of consensus, according to color historian Michel Pastoureau.
Your thesis is that once Emmanuel Macron was elected, we witnessed a degeneration of the neutral …
Yes. The neutral hardened and took on a more threatening form, that of neutralization. In other words, the organization of paralysis. First, there was the metaphor of the new world, an extremely powerful formula for making the opposition outdated, since it is neither on the right nor on the left, it is from yesterday. Then there was this use of a very overwhelming symbolic apparatus (the pyramid of the Louvre for the investiture ceremony, the Acropolis for its speech on the refoundation of Europe), which relegated the citizen to the rank of spectator. . This explains why, for a year, Macron seemed to be walking on water …
Why did the magic dissipate afterwards?
Understanding the strength of the symbol made Emmanuel Macron successful. It was also the trigger for some disruption. The most striking example is the slogan “Make our planet great again”. This stroke of advertising genius allowed him to appear as the first opponent of Donald Trump.
But behind this seductive message, Emmanuel Macron did not turn into an ecological president, as the resignation of Nicolas Hulot brilliantly demonstrated a few months later. When the symbol disconnects from the rest, when there is only the symbol for the symbol, it does not work.
Not to mention that since the start of his five-year term, Emmanuel Macron has put on a thousand and one faces, from the cool president, posing with young shirtless West Indians, to the monarch president, welcoming Putin in majesty at Versailles. This helped to cloud his message.
And the yellow vests have also been there …
If the yellow vests have destabilized the power to this point, it is because they have succeeded in constituting themselves as a counter-brand. With an absolute counter-narrative, anchored in reality and its galleys, when Macron constantly seeks to detach himself from it and to rise towards the sacred. Their symbolism has taken power in its own trap. What is striking is that in four years the main opposition to macronism has come neither from the right nor from the left. She came from this movement which ultimately shares the same political unconscious, with this desire to exercise direct democracy by bypassing the intermediary bodies.
Will Emmanuel Macron be able to redo the Neutral move in 2022?
No. You never win the presidential election twice on the same strategy. What is interesting is that one year before the presidential election, he left the field open. If he is able to represent himself, several scenarios are in my opinion possible, from the mirror brand, which consists of blending in with his audience, to the authority brand, very vertical, through the icon brand, Generation Mitterrand style. .
Can others besides him take up the torch of the Neutral?
I am convinced that those who are disappointed with Macronism are orphans of Neutral. And that a candidate who would take up this value, on current themes, would have all the more cards in his hands. Except that, for the moment, this candidate, I do not see it. Xavier Bertrand could have adopted this positioning. But he made the choice to assume a clearly identified camp, that of the right and rooting in a land.
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