chapter  9
17 Pages

Political branding in the modern age: effective strategies, tools and techniques

ByKenneth M. Cosgrove

Branding is a common marketing strategy and technique, and this chapter discusses the different ways in which it is used by the mainstream political parties in the US and, by way of comparison within North America, the Conservative Party of Canada. Branding offers important advantages to the political practitioner because it can sum up a complicated series of events or ideas, give meaning to an individual or incident, and provide a consistency of message over time with which one-off efforts simply can’t compete. The brand’s importance has grown during the past three decades as the number of political enterprises and the amount of background noise generated through the transformation of media from mass to niche has occurred. Branding represents a summary for the consumer about a product or, in this case, a party, candidate or policy, which can be subject to significant input by the user based on experience or perception. Branding works with positioning and differentiation because it helps to answer the questions of what market space the product should occupy in the mind of the consumer, how it differs from other products in the same space, and which consumers should and should not be interested in the product being supported. Based on the positioning, branding ensures that values, benefits and specific attributes all tie together, which allows for a consistent message. Branding requires a wholesale commitment to building a complete offering, ideally over time. Branding done well can add value far beyond just a single marketing campaign as each successive initiative builds on the existing strength of the brand. However, when poorly executed, it can make it all too easy for the opposition to attack, because the implementation no longer matches the brand promises communicated to the voter/consumer. There are multiple branding strategies just as there are multiple uses for the brand. This

chapter will focus specifically on the brand hierarchy concept because it is a good way to examine the way in which the brand reaches the consumer on a number of different levels. One commonly implemented strategy includes focusing on a top level (or house brand in consumer marketing lingo), then layering specific platforms and products under that brand. Another common strategy is to focus on the platform and product brands, and de-emphasize

the top level. These techniques allow us to look at the way in which the high-level brand vision is translated into the specific brand attributes and these guide the way in which the brand is translated to the consumer. Two relevant examples of effective implementation of these strategies from the consumer

world are BMW and Proctor & Gamble. BMW uses a strong centralized brand with a consistent message, emotion and product – high-end products for people who enjoy driving. This goes across multiple product categories, such as cars, motorcycles and commercial trucks. Mini is the one notable exception to this strategy, and is essentially a stand-alone brand with a narrow product line that is tightly aimed at a specific audience to which the BMW brand may not appeal. In contrast, Proctor & Gamble markets its products under a variety of brand names. Many consumers may not realize that the parent company of two competing brands of detergent is, in fact, the same. For BMW, the targeted focus allows them to launch new products under the same umbrella, while using fewer resources. For Proctor & Gamble, the emphasis on the platform brands, such as Tide or Swiffer, allows them to create a unique message for each product, without worrying about how well it fits with the top-level brand. Figure 9.1 illustrates a typical brand hierarchy.