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What role should branding play in politics? Borat Vs. Kazakhstan What role should branding play in politics?
   
 

"Tony Blair is the New Labour brand. If he is contaminated, the brand is contaminated." Who do you think said this? A marketing professional? An advertising guru? No, it was a well-respected political commentator and former editor of The Times (UK), William Rees-Mogg, a man in his late 60s, for whom we would be forgiven for thinking that in his mind, brands might simply be something that you buy in supermarkets.

At the same time, headlines across the UK screamed “The New Labour brand is contaminated” – this following the leak of focus group findings for the Prime Minister. Why was the brand perceived as contaminated? Because the packaging was flawed or the advertising wide of its mark? No, because the government itself had been seen to fail to deliver against a range of policy promises – healthcare, education, pensions and more.

 
 

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.

 
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What role should branding play in politics?
 
 I think branding makes politics more interesting. I think they did a spectacular job with Clinton-- even after all the public messes he's been in, the American public would probably re-elect him if they could. 
Sam Lopez, Student, Florida State University - June 1, 2001
 
 Marketing is marketing - without regard to what you are trying to sell. Those in politics are wise to understand the principles of positioning, brand development, and consumer brand marketing. In fact, getting a politician elected might be the ultimate marketing/branding challenge. 
M.B. Moore, Infopop Corporation - June 2, 2001
 
 I believe that branding in politics are essential because it helps the people understand what they stand for. 
Winston G. Li, Manager, Eminent Trading - June 4, 2001
 
 It's interesting that the "point" on this subject dismisses branding as "an obsession with image," when any reader of this website knows that branding goes far beyond the image. Knowing that a brand is built through consistent execution in all forms of behavior and communication, at all levels, and over time... wouldn't this be the VERY DEFINITION of what we want from our politicians and political parties? Brand-building is about letting the consumer know what to expect in a product experience, to know what a product is about, to allow them to make an informed decision on whether a given product meets their needs. In my mind, there hasn’t been enough branding in politics, leaving political consumers (the voters) to make emotional decisions based on incomplete information … a classic situation in a cluttered, highly undifferentiated category. At least the political parties used to impart some branding on the candidates … but this is fading in an era of Left-wing Republicans and Conservative Democrats. Like over-extended , ill-managed brands elsewhere, they all end up looking the same. 
Jennifer Silverberg, Consultant, PYRAMID Consulting - June 4, 2001
 
 Branding is a required act in the 21st century. While branding denotes something of concern for politicos, the reality is that regardless of the playing field (sports, media, politics) American culture is largely tuned to brand messages, again whether we like it or not. Branding is a required pipeline for a sound decision. The problem with political candidates/parties is they try to constantly change the brand to meet the desire of the audience, just to win votes. That is what creates bad branding in politics. 
Guy Ferri, Chief Strategist, WaterMark Branding - June 4, 2001
 
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