Thursday, 8 April 2010

Negative Political Branding…

For the last few days I’ve found myself wondering if I am the only person that is frustrated by the negative branding emanating from all 3 parties in the run up to the 2010 General Election.

Hundreds of individuals have been altering David Cameron’s now infamous poster campaign. But, the joke seems to be getting quite old. In addition to claims of Cameron loving the BBC so much that he wants to cut it up and give it to his friends, we’ve been subjected to the, “Get Kerry Out,” campaign after the Labour Twitter Tsar upset a group of Conservative bloggers. The last week has also seen the generally mild-mannered Clegg criticising Cameron and his party in gay magazine, the Pink Times.

Negative branding was a common occurrence throughout the whole of the 2005 General Election campaign. If we think a little, many of us can probably remember the, “Take that look off your face” cinema advertisement from the Conservative party. This was followed by the Labour party using the Tories’ own slogan, “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?”

Sadly, the effect of these campaigns was just to undermine the opposition without the provision of any positive brand message. Initially, negative campaigning may seem highly useful as it plants seeds of doubt in the minds of the consumer and it also keeps the opponents busy as they spend time counteracting attacks, rather than spreading a positive message about their political brand.

Negative branding may be an effective short-term tactic, but as an overall strategy it can be only end in failure, as it reinforces voters’ already negative perceptions of the political arena as a whole.

The negative brand is not based upon what the brand stands for; instead it is based upon the fact that it is not the competition. The Conservatives’ recent attack upon Labour’s “death tax” proved this. Therefore, such a brand cannot be viewed in isolation, as it needs the other brand to justify its market position. The focus upon negativity at the expense of the promotion of a positive brand offering actually means that the electorate has very little that is tangible upon which to base their judgements.

The low turnout of 61% in the 2005 General Election suggests that the negative tendencies associated with the campaign essentially did nothing to capture the hearts and minds of consumers. Furthermore, when negative campaigning becomes the dominant force in an election, as in 2005, not only do consumers become negative toward the brands involved, but they are also likely to become negative to the sector as a whole.

This negativity is not only harmful to political brands; it can also affect institutions outside of Westminster. Negativity towards political brands and the political system can extend to any institution that is perceived as having links with the political process. Any organisation relating to the political process, such as the civil service or local authorities are also regarded with suspicion and their work is eventually undermined by the negativity emanating from the main political brands.


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