These two journalistic examples point to two trends. Firstly, branding is now taken seriously as a phenomenon within politics. Secondly, branding is now understood to be about what we might call the whole Gestalt, and not just about superficial gloss or spin. Moreover, these trends are not confined to the UK, nor did they even start there. In the US there has been a long history of applying the same tools to sway popular opinion about political issues as are used by manufacturers to market their wares to their consumers– sophisticated polling techniques, customer segmentation and so on. In Germany, France, Israel and across the developed world we see the same picture.
Of course, branding in its most widely understood sense has always had a role to play in politics. Slogans, which are now used to promote the virtues of everything from washing powder to beer, originated as the rallying cries of warring factions (the word itself is Gaelic in origin and means ‘war cry’). Who could argue that the Nazi party or the Communist Party of the former Soviet Union did not present strongly branded identities? Historically, however, as on the supermarket shelves, branding techniques were used to reinforce and communicate fundamental points of difference – either you believed in the redistribution of wealth or you did not. Now, however, we are beginning to see product parity in the political arena just as in the consumer goods arena; policy is converging and the key differences between the major political parties in much of the western world are attitudinal, rather than substantial.