Republicans Own A Stronger Brand
By Tom Dougherty
Nowhere is brand more important, and more poorly used, than in the political arena. As a reflection of personal identity, brand should be the calling card of all political parties but instead; it has been reduced to a cult of personalities in U.S. politics.
The Republican Party has generally done a better job of defining its brand but part of its success can be credited to the absolute dismal failure of the Democratic Party in clearly defining its brand. Lets take a closer look at both parties, their brand promises and equity markers.
The Political Landscape
The political landscape must be examined dispassionately in order to find any real opportunity. This means that you must look at what IS and not what you would like it to be. It also means, that from a brand anthropological viewpoint, that you must also understand and utilize the cultural human tendencies that are at work with in the U.S. culture. (Please note that because much of this short dissertation points to weaknesses in the Democratic Party brand, it was authored by a strategist at Stealing Share® who is a registered Democrat.) (Read more about political brands here)
Republican Brand: Represents wealth, success, exclusion, decisiveness, a sense of arrival, and it wields an unapologetic aggressive attitude. The brand owns simplicity. Democrat Brand: Represents inclusion, a sense of journey, indecisiveness and apology. The brand owns complexity. The Republican Brand (not the ideals of the party) is in a preferred position to that of the Democratic Party. From a cultural perspective, the idea of winning and arrival are more germinal to an American’s sense of self-identity (read BRAND) than inclusion and journey.
To the average American, it is more aspirational to think of oneself as having arrived and therefore “set apart” (as in exclusion) than as being on a journey and a journey that can include everyone. In an odd twist, the Republican Brand, which represents success and winning to the majority of Americans, is empowered by right brain and emotional cues to a much greater extent than the Democratic Brand of journey and inclusion — which is more strictly left brain. In brand development, emotion is the fuel of preference because it binds the target audience to the brand. Intellect drives discussion, emotion drives attachment. (Read about being a persuasive brand here)
When you look as dispassionately as possible at the business of both brands, it becomes quickly evident that the Republican Party has taken the high ground (as a military metaphor) and has many strong brand advantages. What this means to the future of the political parties is that the Democratic brand can win national elections only when they have the advantage of a strong cult of personality (like President Clinton and president Obama) and that in the absence of such individual power figures, the Republican brand will win with a far less charismatic candidate.
Think about it in terms of our current reality. In business situations, Democrats are much less likely to disclose their political affiliation than are Republicans.
The reason for this hesitancy is quite telling — Republicans see their affiliation as a symbol of arrival and success and Democrats see their affiliation as a need for explanation. Republicans see no need to apologize and Democrats feel the need to constantly explain. Conservative seems smart and strong and liberal seems weak and foolish. To a much greater degree, the Republican Party has seized the mantle of patriotism and the Democratic Party, the Party of FDR, Truman and Kennedy is seen as outsiders. One Party claims that America is always right and the other feels the need to apologize for all of our actions.
One represents pride and the other represents self-deprecation. Strong arguments can be made for the morality of the Democratic “positions” and platform, but aside from “caring for the less fortunate” they are all intellectual equity markers and not emotional ones. The Republican Party has developed such strong equity markers that it is almost assumed that a neighborhood home that daily flies the American flag is the home of a registered Republican.
The End Game
The Democratic Party has a world of opportunity in front of it if they are willing to admit their failings (as a brand) and look to develop a brand identity that inspires and embraces the basic cultural tenets of Americans. Only then will the party rise above the cult of personality that now anchors its future.