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Berlusconi the great communicator: all the tricks to his ascension 

Silvio Berlusconi, symbol of modern age communication and one of the most divisive characters in all of Italian history. He was an entrepreneur, politician and overall a communicator who was able to polarise an entire country through edgy jokes, hyperbolic slogans, television strategies and undeniable boldness. 

What he left behind was a profoundly changed Italy due to his move to “modernise” politics and advertising. During his political and business career he was able to develop innovative communication and marketing strategies that still profoundly impact daily life, for better or for worse. An apt expression to describe his career. But what distinguishes Berlusconi’s communication and what tricks did he use to get to his position?

Silvio Berlusconi entrepreneur: TV communication foresight

Berlusconi was a successful businessman before entering politics. After working in the construction industry with Edilnord, his business savvy led him to TeleMilano, a small television channel that broadcast only in the neighbourhood Milan 2 built by his company. Until 1984, RAI had monopolised all cable television broadcasts on a National level, but through various tricks TeleMilano managed to keep growing and quickly became a regional channel, then National, changing its name to Canale 5.

At this point his private Television channel garnered more consent and more companies chose Canale 5 for their advertising. Contrary to RAI, Canale 5 preferred edgy ads, modern, both from small or medium companies and large corporations, they played with double entendres, even in ads aimed at children. A type of communication never seen before in Italy, and that became very successful. 

Subsequently, following the acquisition of new channels such as Rete 4, Italia 7 and Italia 1, Berlusconi’s strategy became much more defined, assigning each channel a precise target audience. Canale 5 was aimed at families, Italia 7 at men, Rete 4 at women, and finally Italia 1 was aimed at a young audience. The idea to import foreign cartoons (like Japanese anime or American cartoons) was a genius move for Italia 1, which became one of the most watched National channels among young people. This was possible through the analysis of segments of the public, a fundamental strategy in marketing to this day

Silvio Berlusconi politician: the beginning of personalised politics

After making it big in the business world, Silvio Berlusconi decided to jump into the world of politics . His bold style of communication, full of hyperboles and with a particularly emotional language, started with the name he chose for his party, Forza Italia. The political landscape, plagued by continuous attempts and heavy corruption accusations, was quite fractured. Even it seemed like the PCI was the party destined to win the 1994 elections. Instead Berlusconi joined the race with his “going onto the field”, in a speech broadcast on all his channels he tells his story, that of a great worker and a self-made man

Against all odds he won those elections. But in what way did Berlusconi’s way of communicating impact an era, what tricks did he use? First of all his party, Forza Italia, was extremely personalised: everything rotated around his persona. When previously political parties put strong local roots and values at the forefront, Berlusconi’s party focused the entire political communication around one person. In addition, by purchasing various sport’s teams, such as Milan that at the time had won many trophies, further cemented his image as a person who is close to the people and far from political lobbies. 

Berlusconi as a living meme

This new approach, possible due to the arrival of new technologies like the internet, has radically changed how we communicate. From party forums debates have moved to talk shows. In an extremely populist communication storytelling pits “good guys”, Berlusconi and his voters, against “bad guys”, all of his opposition. The strength of Forza Italia’s former leader was his charismatic image which appealed to his voters. No longer were values the core of politics, but the person communicated through a meticulous storytelling technique. 

Even after his fall Berlusconi continued to behave as he did during his business career. Using a mix of charisma and new technology with cunning, he was able to remain the centre of politics and to become a living meme.

Unforgettable, for better or for worse, the unavoidable out of pocket jokes, the contract with Italians in 2001. The debates, also, with his arch nemesis Marco Travaglio, the irritated notes on Giorgia Meloni. His limited time on Tik Tok and his personalised chants which contributed to turning politics into a football match.

Analysis of Berlusconi’s communication profile

Silvio Berlusconi’s profile, despite all his flaws, is the profile of a born orator and demagogue. During the course of his business and political career he took advantage of these qualities to gain the favour of many people as an honest worker. A self-made man who got to his position through blood, sweat and tears, and with no help. A concept which recalls the american dream, that gained popularity among the Italian public through the Mediaset channels and thanks to made in the U.S.A cinema. This is why his fans always held on to the belief that they too would eventually make it, by working hard. His storytelling, in fact, has always gone in this direction

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