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Political Brands and Citizen Consumers Maggie Scammell.

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1 Political Brands and Citizen Consumers Maggie Scammell

2 “Consider yourself a brand” Ubiquity of brand language: products, places, celebrities, politics, even individuals But exactly what is a brand? Is it changing promotion/political communication? How? This paper: The reconnection of Tony Blair: political branding in action Some broader points: Consumer paradigm of political communication Politics lost/emotionally intelligent connection

3 Brands: what are they? “Intangible” business assets – add colossal financial value: Google brand $12.38bn Symbolic rather than tangible use value Defined: “psychological representation” of product/service/organis ation Short-cuts to consumer choice Successful brands add layer of “emotional connection” above functional value 2/3 prefer taste of Pepsi but 2/3 buy Coke Brand image partly owned by consumers (brand equity)

4 What makes a brand distinctive? Cultural “symbol of our society” Brand differentiators Social“grew up with it” Psychological“says something about me” Economic“value for money” Boundary conditions Functional“works better”

5 “The tiny details…” Brand research focuses on differentiators Uncovers patterns from multiple consumer experiences/psycho associations Low-level involvement Emotional intelligence: reason/emotion work together Research techniques: Qualitative (focus group) Projective/enabling Mood boards Concept statements Party-game association Psycho-analysis

6 “Reconnecting the Prime Minister”: the re-branding of Blair The Labour problem: Ability to mobilize voters (fear of low turn out) Anger over Iraq war, failure to find WMD Blair the target: women voters, especially, angry with him Promise plc brand consultancy Hired to: isolate the Blair effect on the New Labour brand Investigate causes of anger Recommend a re- connection strategy

7 The Promise research: premises and methods New Labour “a premium brand” Offer high quality, become “idealized”, suffer heavily if fail to live up to expectation Customers brand images betrayed Methods: focus groups, (women undecideds) Numerical scaling: consumer generated ideal attributes (competence, leadership, integrity, in touch, interactive) Expressive techniques, psycho analysis

8 Letters to Blair (from undecided women voters) Key phrasesEmotional experience Desires/wishes/ direction Theme 1: you’ve left me! “you should have come home” (Tsunami); “your country needed you”; “broken promises” Abandoned & unimportant Put us first Get back in touch Get more involved with us Theme 2: too big for your boots/celebrity “a president with Cherie”; “ “celebrity hero worship (Bush”); “thought you were a people’s person,”. His self-importance & global lifestyle leaves me feeling inferior Re-order priorities Get back to basics Get real Theme 3: reflect and change “ “how foolish you’ve been”; “you’ve lost sight of reality”. Not held in mind Uncontained Out of control Think, reflect – are you still the bloke we elected?

9 The 2-chair therapy Woman voter to Blair: “I thought you were one of us. A people person. Yet you were more interested in sucking up to people more famous than yourself. To do that you even put our boys’ lives at risk in Iraq even though more than a million people had marched against that war. Why didn’t you listen? Blair to woman voter: “I’m afraid you’ve only got part of the picture. From where I sit the war in Iraq was crucial to the cause of world peace. But I understand that it’s difficult to see the whole thing for you (boos from the group!). You put me in charge and I must do what I think to be the right thing. I am sure that history will prove us right in the end”.

10 The answer they wanted… Blair to woman voter: “I understand your feelings and I realize that there are many who do not agree with me over Iraq…I still believe on balance that we did the right thing, though I have been shocked to appreciate the depth of frustration among those who disagree with me. I solemnly promise to spend more time at home in contact with our own people and to debate these issues more seriously before we launch on such an endeavor again.”

11 The Promise conclusion: Depth of anger at Blair related to feelings of betrayal “Ideal Tony” had become “Terrible Tony” Less Iraq war itself, more pompous patronizing, self- justificatory Blair tone Integrate the 2 Tonys: the fresh, hopeful leader & the tough war leader into “Mature Tony” Demonstrate he understood the anger That still listening Drop “I know best”; use “we can only do this together”

12 The 2005 election & the “masochism strategy” Let the public give Blair a “good kicking” Seek out aggressive interviewers Ask TV to provide hostile audiences Blair must show “humility & listen” Did it work? Some co-incidence in polls Blair increased lead over Tory leader Labour improved lead on key issues Women voters: gender gap in Labour favour for first time

13 Branding in politics: what it may mean… Connection: new emotionally intelligent communication But also… Elevation of soft over hard politics Focus on soft vote: brand equity defined by undecideds Consumer paradigm of political communication Permanent campaign is constant attention to branding


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