29 February, 2024


Political Branding

By Nishthar Idroos

Nishthar Idroos

Nishthar Idroos

The deference an iconic brand elicits from its loyal customers is simply mind boggling. The near stampede  witnessed to acquire the brand while queuing at eerie hours expending precious energy and paying big bucks may sound crazy for some, but not for hardcore loyalists. Living in Toronto the writer knows firsthand how brave hearts defy frigid weather just to lay their hands on the newest contraption. It’s a eureka moment for diehards. The next minute they’re on social media flaunting with a mission accomplished pose “we’ve got it and we were the first” – The iPhone 6 Bigger than bigger.

Apple as a brand is indelibly etched in the minds of most people. A company with a vision to be radically disruptive. A blue-chip American  Corporation  once led by the inimitable Steve Jobs who famously said “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”.  Its dominance attributed to Indispensability – you cannot leave home without it. User friendly – remarkable design.  Simplicity – the only unique all in one. Experiential Marketing – great customer service and in-store experiences. Leadership – reinvent, relax, and rejoice. Futuristic- Be ahead of the competition. These core competencies difficult to copy or imitate.

Brand thinking has entered the realm of politics. Obama was not its genesis but bequeathed an enviable legacy. A politician has to demonstrate his or her brand promise quite vigorously just like the retail counterpart. This may constitute a plethora of differentiators that ought to communicate with the target market. It makes perfect sense for politicians to think Branding. It’s a pragmatic and sustainable way to create value.  Engaging during electioneering is a challenging process. An informed voter is easier to talk to than an uninformed one. This is why a bold, valid and potent Branding Strategy is so necessary. How will twenty million eligible voters decide whom to vote without a clear, concise and compelling message?

Maithri SA ‘brand’ constitutes a symbolic value, it’s a psychological paradigm of a given product, service, person, place etc. From the consumers point of view it’s a spontaneous response to both a rational and emotional stimuli. The brand endeavours to extend utility to the discerning buyer. A product is relatively generic and may refer to a single or retinue of benefits. On the contrary a brand encompasses a myriad of factors. Technically speaking the brand exudes much more than its core rational attributes, these include softer aspects, such as emotions, psychographics and social connotations among others. A brand has to keep its promise and not evade it. It has to stand out, instil a positive image and bond well. Sean Adams an expert in Design says “A Brand is not necessarily visual. It’s a promise of an experience”. A Brand fundamentally communicates at two distinct levels, namely the Rational and Emotional. The former conveys the core benefits while the latter animates the purported seduction. Today experts tell us It’s not “either/or” its “both/and” Neuroscience is telling us that every “rational” decision is surrounded and influenced by emotions. As such, brand decisions are neither rational nor emotional- they’re a combination of both.

Political branding is for anyone and everyone who has something to offer. A streak of wins or loses at the polls is of little or no consequence. All candidates are equally vulnerable. Those who attempt smart positioning, repositioning and re-strategizing have an edge. This is why Politicians retain Madison Avenue – an institution that houses a distinct species of human beings excelling in relevant brilliance. They’re well adept in the art of mass communication and naturally disposed to their tasks. They’re adequately conversant on how to plan, conceive and execute campaigns incorporating the most compelling message.

Here in Canada Communication Managers are in demand and earn a tidy sum for their work. We recently had a new mayor elected for Toronto. John Tory a lawyer and businessman who retained the services of many Communication Specialists. John Tory is the current mayor-elect of Toronto. He ran as a mayoral candidate in 2003 and lost. Came back bouncing after 11 years and won.  His pledge to be bridge-builder, planner, and thinker and get things moving on public transit resonated well with Torontonians.

Justin Trudeau MP  is a Canadian politician and the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Trudeau is the eldest son of Pierre Trudeau, long-serving Prime Minister. He’s young, cerebral, well educated, bilingual, profoundly engaging and ravishingly handsome. Most Canadians especially the young believe He’ll be the next Prime Minister of Canada. He has significant and enviable personal brand. Canadians love him. If Justin Trudeau is elected some day, he might not just form a new government but launch an exciting new phase in Canadian politics. Justin’s Brand equity is certainly going to take him places.

Why does the political candidate or party exist? What do we stand for? Where are we going? What do we excel at? These are fundamental questions that will elicit great Branding Strategies. Michael Porter an illustrious Professor at The Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness based at the Harvard Business School in his famous five forces analysis mentions the threat of substitute products or services as a major threat. In Political Branding the political hopeful must ensure that his or her Branding Strategy does not in any way resemble the rival/s especially if it’s not his or her core strength. It should remain inimitable. Mimicking everyone else’s strategy could boomerang.

In Sri Lanka nothing less than a pith battle is on the cards as D-day nears. The emergence of MS as the opposition candidate has galvanised voter enthusiasm and has added a degree of poise to the event. MR’s exclusive claim if not monopoly of defeating terrorism and restoring peace is doubtless a huge strength to the incumbent. MS on the other hand is exuding a Mr Clean image coupled with his true humble roots – Govi Putha (Son of a farmer) who understands the pulse of the people. As the campaign coalesces the two contestants will assiduously strive to convey competing messages vis a vis their respective branding strategies. The holder of the message that has optimum consonance will  be enthroned on January 9  2015.

President Barak Obama in his second term re-election had 40,000 different messages to entirely different target markets. His campaign changed the official website 8000 times and sent over 250 million emails. This is only a fraction of his campaign. One cannot afford not to mention his Marketing genius. The brand formula for Obama was delivered in just a three word phrase “Yes We Can” which essentially was a call for hope and change to the American people. His campaign’s blend of grass-roots appeal and big media-budget know-how converted the American electorate in 2008. He was named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008. Mr Obama won the vote of hundreds of marketers. He edged out runners-up Apple.

*The writer is a freelance journalist. He’s a Graduate of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK) and also holds a MBA from VM University (India) He could be contacted via nishthar.idroos.isme@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 2

    Nishthar Idroos –

    Political Branding

    Right Now MaRa, mara, Mahinda Rajapsaksa, Mefdamulana Brand is a liability.

    It will be worth less, afyter he is defeated.

    It Had value in 2009 and 2009, Courtesy of LTTE VP. No more.

    So make hay while the sun shines. Retire the MaRa brand.

    Publish Common sense sri Lanka 2014. –Looking for the anonymous Author.

  • 0

    While we are on the subject of branding, the contribution made by a Sri Lankan-born LTTE-leaning Canadian MP Sitsabesan must not go unmentioned. By equating the murderous Tamil terrorists to Canadian veterans she must have contributed significantly to the brand NDP, her political party, since ONLY one MP had the guts to challenge her.

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