I was listening to a report this morning on the mid-term elections and it got me thinking about the brands of the political parties. I am going to focus on the Democratic Party brand in this blog, but you could just about substitute the word Republican in my assessment and still have the same, self-evident truths.
Anyway, the news report focused on a couple of tight mid-term elections around the country and President Obama’s caution to his party that Democrats could be in some trouble because Democrats simply don’t vote in midterms. His point in this caution is to get the party faithful out to vote and beat the bushes so that nothing is taken for granted.
Now I’m a brand strategist by trade and I know that that moniker sometimes clouds my vision. Talking to my two youngest kids about their brands and why they should care could certainly be taken as being a bit obsessed. But in this case (the mid-term elections), the rose colored glasses that I wear are giving me some clarity that I think the political parties in the US lack.
Karl Rove may be the past-president of the Republican brand but he only understood the issues in terms of candidate politics. Where is all the political savvy when elections are a year away?
The reason that President Obama is rightly worried about the upcoming midterms is because the Democratic Party (like the Republican Party) does not support the DEMOCRAT brand. Instead, Democrats support the cult of personality called CANDIDATE (insert name here). They fail to tell the target audience what it means to be a Democrat and why they should choose that label.
The closest either party gets to a brand is the three-minute emotional movie they create and show every four years at the conventions. These snippets are designed to raise gooseflesh on the faithful but are no doubt looked at as simply image pieces. They could not be more wrong.
These highly emotional and evocative mini-movies make the watchers proud to be part of something. They endorse a brand as something meaningful and bigger than a candidate. Sadly, once they end, the convention gets back to the business of cult personality without choreographed linkage to a bigger idea.
If either party came to us for help, we would start by letting it know that it is in the business of power and influence and that it needs to start acting like a business and managing its brand. Certainly the stakes are at higher than brands that manage their brands better, like disposable diapers.
Of course, selling a brand means understanding the single highest emotional intensity and laying all of your bets on that. Maybe that is the problem in condensed form. Maybe the real problem is agreeing on a single idea that defines the aspirations and beliefs of those they wish to influence. It seems to me that neither party has done this in any way shape of form. When was the last time you saw an ad that spoke to you about what it means to be a member of either party? There. I have just made my case.
So Democrats want the party members to come out and vote. Maybe they should have told them what was at stake. Maybe they should have spoken to them for the last 12 months about what it means to be a Democrat? Had they done that with the correct message, voters would be faced with a conundrum. Do I stay at home and renounce my higher self or do I tell myself that I am who I claim to be?
The Republican Party faces a deep crisis itself as it tries to throttle the difficulties of the Tea Party in its midst. But the Tea Party has a message and the Republicans don’t.
Guess who will turn out to vote in the midterm elections and guess who will win in the end? One thing is for sure, both the Republicans and the Democrats will lose.
I wish they would call us. Of course, they would first have to swallow working with a company called Stealing Share — even though stealing share is exactly what they need to do to win.