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Zelenski, the power of speech in logical branding


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The Conversation

Francesc Pujol

The leadership role Zelenski is playing in this cataclysm first aroused surprise, which has now turned for many into admiration. His extraordinary political speech ability is applauded, even by rivals. Some attribute it to his training as an actor and comedian, but his talent and professional experience is not the cause, it is the instrument. The source of his strength lies in his conviction of the profound power of speech. His communicative approach clearly responds to the branding logic, the main keys to which I unravel in this analysis. For this reason, moreover, the core topic is not that he is an actor, since the actor interprets the stories created by others, but that he has been a scriptwriter, which is the creator of stories, and has been a producer, who knows how to bet on stories that connect well with the public.

Branding logic

Branding logic is not primarily speech. It belongs to the marketing sphere. It is primarily a way of understanding oneself, from a process of self-understanding - applicable to both the staff and corporate spheres -, of getting to the core of the most basic reasons for action. It is about getting to the why, which Simon Sinek masterfully portrays in his essay core topic is the why. That why is the core of identity. Once identity is understood, the main values that shape it are connected.

Once the map has been configured, you can talk about speech: how can you make your identity, your why, known? You can make the purpose known, but it is more accessible to deploy it from the values that make it up. The goal is therefore to ensure that the public you are addressing associates you with that set of values that allow you to identify and differentiate yourself, even when what you produce is similar to others. Doing it directly, telling the world about your values is cloying; doing it from your product is often not possible, because the product does not contain values. What is left? Indirect ways. Almost all of them dance around the same idea: telling stories, telling tales. Because stories are basically containers of values. The usual stories bring us morals, the classic stories are so because they bring valuable morals.

This is the realm of speech in branding logic: storytelling, with a clear purpose : show your values and connect with listeners through values. These stories can be stories, images or symbolic gestures. The speech in branding logic is quite paradoxical: it is bound to be boring and tiring, because it must always be articulated around the same values; when in internship it is rich and surprising, because it relies on the creativity of the infinite stories you can build around that collection of values.

Steve Jobs sample in this internal session with his top executives for the presentation of the mythical Think Different campaign a deep understanding of branding logic... although he does not mention it because the term was not coined.

Zelenski, master storyteller

Volodymir Zelenski's speech of crisis is full of narrative construction, images and gestures. It is speech in pure branding logic, even though Zelenski probably did not intellectually approach it as such, any more than Jobs did. But both handle it with conviction and conviction, with clarity and mastery.

From what has been presented, it is understood that speech by stories is not branding in itself; for it to be part of this ecosystem, it is its foundation that must be branding: it must be based on and be the manifestation of a clear identity underpinned by specific values. It is in Zelenski's case. The axes of actor Zelenski's unsuspected presidential candidacy are clearly articulated around purpose: the transformation of Ukrainian society, politics and Economics to uproot the endemic culture of corruption. As is clear from his inauguralspeech , the Europeanist proposal is integrated as part of this project of social transformation. This is also why, as coherently as surprisingly, his campaign did not focus on antagonism with Russia, topic central and recurring inevitability in all winning candidacies until then.

To raise this purpose as the focus of the campaign and presidential action can be seen as hazy, generic and simplistic. This is how it was generally labelled by analysts who came forward in 2019 to explain Zelenski's surprisingly massive victory, with 73% of the vote in the second round.

However, if the purpose is clear, but above all authentic, it gives solidity and guide, as it is for all organisations that are born with a real purpose . And it is indeed simplicity, but not simplism.

Again: the heart is identity and the purpose, the deployment is to communicate it by creating stories. And this is where Zelenski is demonstrating an unquestionable mastery, to which his professional background is undoubtedly indebted. As we said, mainly as a scriptwriter, which gives him the ability to create engaging stories. His inaugural speech was loaded with images that create strong stories:

Every one of us is the president now. Not only 73 percent of Ukrainians who voted for me. All of us, 100 percent. It is not mine, it is our common victory. And it is our common opportunity for which we take shared responsibility.

And now it was not just me who took the oath. Every one of us, every one of us, put a hand on the Constitution, and every one of us has sworn allegiance to Ukraine.


Yes, we have chosen a (political) direction towards Europe, but Europe is not somewhere there, it is here (he points to his head). And when Europe is here (again he points to his head), it will come to our country.

This is our shared dream.

They are calls to action clearly reminiscent of J.F. Kennedy's inaugural speech in 1961.

Having a clear purpose not only makes it easier to script speech; it is also a fundamental ally in making strategic, tactical and management decisions. When the crisis phase arrives, the branding logic activates the responses, because identity gives consistency and coherence to the action.

And although the emergence of the charismatic leader from the outset of the head-on clash with Russia has come as a surprise to all and sundry, it is a natural result of this rootedness in the purpose and conviction in the power of the speech. It was surprising to see that, in the midst of the escalation of the crisis with the dialectical clash between Russia and the US, Zelenski's voice was calling for a de-escalation of tension. Surprising, but consistent with his presidential principles.

Zelenski's communication display from the moment of the invasion has been simply astonishing. All his interventions have generated revenue for his cause. First and foremost, to convince his people of the impossible in order to make it possible: resist the invader in order to win.

To this end, he returned to the principles and images of his presidential inauguration: if you are Ukrainian presidents like me, then I am a soldier in the service of Ukraine like you. And, therefore, he is sample and acts like a soldier, not a marshal. He does the crazy thing of dressing up as a private, without any more uniform or decorations or protection. He acts like a soldier, sharing a table and a tablecloth with soldiers. He acts like a soldier, avoiding formalities and barriers at press conferences.

And he finally acts as a heroic soldier, when he announces that they are coming for him and he does not know if he will survive the night, but that he will remain in Kiev. And he gives the now mythical response to the logical proposal tactic of the Allies to evacuate him and give him shelter: "Give me ammunition, not a ride".

For the president to present himself and act as a soldier on Degree heroic is the most powerful call to action for his people. Has it been Zelenski's speech in logical branding that the army and the population have been able to resist the mighty invader, against the plans expected by the Russians? I don't know to what extent, but surely for millions of them it has, which in turn has awakened the complacent or hesitant. It is a crisis in which their leader has really played a decisive role in the outcome of the first phase of the invasion, no doubt.

Yes, speech in branding logic is simple, but it is tremendously powerful. And speech populist? It shares similarities with speech in its use of storytelling, but has totally different foundations. That is subject for another analysis.