Political branding in the modern age

Effective strategies, tools and techniques

Authored by: Kenneth M. Cosgrove

Routledge Handbook of Political Marketing

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415579933
eBook ISBN: 9780203349908
Adobe ISBN: 9781136597442


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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.

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