In our celebrity-obsessed world, we want to see the human side of our politicians. For this reason, a politician’s “brand” is critical. Why do you think Hilary Clinton just hired a brand consultancy? The problem is, politicians don’t seem to be able to behave like a brand should behave.
If there’s one thing we obsess about in branding, it’s consistency. Find a point of difference, a position in the market, a stance on the world and communicate it consistently across all touch points over a long period of time. Of course there is always a need to be culturally relevant, up to date and conscious of the specific audience, but fundamentally the core stance must stay the same.
Think Coca Cola: it’s been extolling the virtues of happiness in one form or another since well before teaching the world to sing in the 1970s.
The issue with modern politicians is that they are so obsessed with opinion polls and the next election that they shift, morph, adapt and transform who they are and what they stand for simply to stay popular and therefore in power.
Most of it is knee-jerk rather than strategic. Yanis Varoufakis regrets his Paris Match shoot: showing the destitute Greek populous his veranda which overlooks the Parthenon was an ill-considered move - and let’s not mention Ed’s “Bacon Sandwich of the People”.
The days of being an idealist, of becoming a politician to further a vision seem sadly over. Regardless of what you think of Margaret Thatcher, you knew the Iron Lady brand, you knew how she’d behave and what she stood for, it was all crystal clear and it was all in the name of economics and politics, not a double-page spread in Hello.
The funny thing is, there is a huge temptation when branding consumer products to try to be all things to all men, to hit the largest source of revenue (or votes).
But success comes from identifying a core target consumer, being totally clear about what you stand for and then conveying that message in an engaging and relevant way. Do that and on the whole many more will follow. Any brand that flips and flops around will cause confusion and therefore desertion.
There’s much the politicians could learn from Coca-Cola: promote happiness for all, always be refreshing, be clear about what you stand for - and for goodness’ sake, stick to it.
Then - and this is the most critical thing - actually do it. It’s not all about image. Image without action is just hot air: it’s the delivery that counts.