The Strike and the Sim City Paradigm

Mayormike Prediction: Mayor Mike will save us from the transit strike.

What does that have to do with marketing? Both sides of this issue, the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Transport Workers Union, have come off looking repugnant. The MTA screwed up by announcing it had a $1 billion surplus, and then spending it on meaningless bonuses for riders that won’t affect public transport use in the slightest. Meanwhile, the TWU wants an 8% raise for each of the next three years. Who the heck makes that kind of money guaranteed, short of people on Wall Street? And then calling the strike during the peak of holiday season, amidst shopping and partying and tourism and all those things that make living in this capitalist city great, doesn’t win over many fans among commuters and business owners.

Bottom line: both sides failed miserably in communicating their ideas and marketing their messages. Each time I hear any of them speak, no matter who it is, I can’t help but thinking, "You’re an idiot." Though I will note that while the MTA comes off looking dumb, the TWU comes off looking dumb, shallow, and evil. Me, I’d rather be just plain dumb.

Meanwhile, there’s the Sim City Paradigm that will soon kick in. It’s something my long-time friend David Hirschl and I discovered while playing Sim City way back when, right around the dawn of VGA resolution. I think Hirschl first spotted it and I refined the maxim (fitting, in a sense… he’s more technologist, I’m more marketer). The paradigm is as follows:

He who unleashes a disaster and then rebuilds is ever the more the hero.

You could be a master of urban planning in Sim City and see your ratings climb, maybe even to 70% or 80% if you’re really good. But if you cause a disaster intentionally (eg, an earthquake, or you let a monster loose on the power plant) and then rebuild, your approval rating goes through the roof. Think George W. Bush post-9/11. Of course, with Bush, that was all a fluke, albeit a fluke that carried him into a second term. Barely.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been pretty quiet these days as the MTA and TWU keep looking worse and worse. Governor George Pataki, who has more authority over the MTA, also doesn’t look too hot. I think Bloomberg could have done more earlier but didn’t want to. I don’t think he’s all that evil or even a master schemer in that bad sense of the word, but the guy does have an ego (don’t we all?), and I’d wager he thought, "If this strike happens, then I’ll swoop in, pull some strings, head up the most impressive negotiation this city’s ever seen, and then forever be the hero."

Bloomberg has been silent in the weeks leading up to the strike. I think he’ll have quite a bit to take credit for when it’s over. It’s the Sim City Paradigm in action.