No one ever owns the minds of even their most loyal voters


Marketoonist Tom Fishburne adds the following commentary to his own work:

It’s common for marketers to exaggerate the importance of their brands in consumers’ lives. Brand positioning statements are often written as if consumers constantly think and obsess about the brand. Social media from brands can make it sound like every consumer is a cult follower.

In reality, even “brand loyalists” have complex lives completely separate from our brands. Brands can play important roles, but we should be careful not to overstate how much consumers give thought to our brands.

Quite. Now, for those of you who are sceptical of what the polls say about the actual support for the central policy options ‘offered’ by our leading political parties (or ‘brands’), here’s the answer. You don’t and cannot ever own even your most loyal voters lifes. They have other lives, and choices to make.

And they don’t eat, sleep and drink politics like you (and I) do, and are often given to thinking in contradictory modes about the same issue. The Freudians [hey, what do they know! – Ed] call it Cognitive Polyphasia. Getting the brand across powerfully is only the first job.

Doing something that usefully progresses you towards your more prized political objects without losing them again is the real and substantive test of politics.

, , , , , ,

  • Branding is more about embedding values relating to a visual or conceptual item – product or service (the latter being broadly suited to politics). You don’t think brand, but when a name is mentioned, or you see something on the shelf it pulls forward those values to make a judgement. Marketeers will advertise or use social media to keep positive values to the front of mind on those occasions so you pick A over B, or C or a big shelf of choice. In the final analysis, however, the brand values must be matched by consumer experience – in the absense of a better offer or alternative.

    Similarly, in whatever they say and do, polticians promote their brand, that set of values underpined by ‘delivery’ on the promise. And were delivery is scant, then the visual identifiers are used – appeal to core common values of a likely demographic.

  • mjh

    Quite right Mick.

    We are always trying to parcel up the voters into a few neat boxes, each complete with a short label which defines all we think we need to know about them.

    These labels then take on the status of “facts” in our minds. When we are presented with new information which does not sit happily with our labels we reject it rather than consider what it might mean. “That must be wrong – it contradicts the facts.”

    Of course now that we have “facts” we can use them to deduce other knowledge about the voters in their boxes. And before long these too have taken on the status of “facts” in our minds. These can now be used to provide “proof” to what is little more than an opinion when we engage in political arguement.

    But not only do the parties not own the minds of the voters – they also have not got an iron grip on their votes. 1 out of every 4 or 5 voters does not even vote straight down the list of all party’s candidates. They prefer a pick and mix approach. First preference for Party A, 2nd for Party B rather than for Party A’s other candidates. What boxes should we put them in?

  • Arguably no political party….certainly not in Norn Iron …is actually capable of doing exactly what it says on the tin.
    That actually increases brand loyalty.
    Impotency is the greatest asset that our parties have.

  • David Crookes

    Enthusiasts of all kinds find it hard to accept the facts of public apathy, selfishness, and inconsistency. For their part logicians find it hard to accept that people hate even positive forms of change.

    What you grow up with becomes in many cases what you are truly comfortable with. Having been born at a time when you got nine hundred and sixty BlackJacks for a pound, I hate to think that today a Ruffle Bar costs more than seven shillings. But I still buy Ruffle Bars, much as other people still vote for parties that they have voted for all their lives.

    Theoreticians like pie charts. Most ordinary people prefer pies. If the Green Party promised me a free Ruffle Bar every day for the rest of my life, I might vote for the Green Party.

    On the other hand, although I could probably get cheaper car insurance by shopping around, I stay with the same company, because I can’t be bothered to shop around, and staying where I am saves me having to think about an uninteresting subject. Brand loyalty can be a largely negative affair. A large section of the public that is loyal to the status quo brand may not bother to vote. (Everything’s more or less OK. We don’t need to circle the wagons. Far better to make a pot of tea and eat Wagon Wheels.)

    Polyphasia is a good word. It denotes that we are complicated creatures, simultaneously keen to find a fresh bargain and keen to be left undisturbed. It is notable that the TUV ‘s three-letter name not only employs three consecutive letters of the alphabet, but also creates a perfect rhyme with DUP. Something new, but in sonic terms something old as well…..

  • @Mick,

    While branding is important, every good marketer knows that there is much more to marketing than merely creating a good brand image. There are also price, position, product and placement. In a supermarket that means getting the product in the chain stores that best represent the brand’s desired customer base and getting it on the shelves where the customer is more likely to notice it than competitors brands.

    In politics that means promoting the brand on the proper television and radio programs both in interviews and paid programming (or free BBC advertising–I’m not sure which system NI uses) at election time and positioning the party and its candidates among the other offerings. Among unionists there is a much bigger range of possible competitors than among nationalists. Unionists have NI21 and Alliance (even though it isn’t a unionist party it is a possible choice for some unionist voters) on the left, UUP and DUP in the center and TUV and PUP on the right. The DUP is like the brand leader that can demand premium positioning in terms of media from the talk show hosts and the reporters. The UUP suffers from fuzzy brand image: it is all over the map. So the DUP is competing with all the other parties, but probably mainly concentrating on driving the UUP off the shelves and into bankruptcy. It doesn’t worry too much about NI21 or the PUP or TUV. All these other parties fill niche markets. Only the UUP is a potential mainstream competitor.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Absolute Rubbish, nearly every politician can trust in their own vote.