What’s in a name?
A Notion by Super Opinion
If you are willing to listen, you can be inundated with marketing experts enthusiastically telling you that your brand is everything – the label on the bottle has more value than the contents. That may be the case when you are selling a product – but what if you’re selling people?
Every election – and almost every day in between too – we are being marketed to by political parties attempting to sell their candidates as the best option for the future of [insert electorate or jurisdiction here]. The candidates are not solely being marketed as individuals, but as part of an organisation with a core set of values or policies (hopefully) under one banner and one symbol.
The brand of a political party is rightly very important to its members. Action will be taken to protect their brand from disrepute – by removing members from their ranks should they be too talkative, too aggressive or just too weird. Training to ensure that members who will receive attention are well practised in the party’s ideals and methods is also undertaken to present a consistent and unified message.
But what if the branding of a party is fundamentally flawed from the outset? Whilst the brand of any company or organisation is more than just one element – the brand name should be able to symbolise that brand – otherwise discussion of the brand becomes complicated and confused.
Brand names should be simple and clear – Coke, Nike, Facebook, and YouTube are some of the biggest brands in the world today. If you mention the name to a person they will instantly know what you’re talking about. The simplicity of a brand name is vital when the brand represents more than just a single product – this is the case with political parties – yet in Australia due to quirks of history, changes in ideals and poor planning – very few party names constitute good brand names.
The two major Australian parties are Labor and Liberal. Starting out with Labor – we are provided with a name that symbolises its apparent roots with workers – protecting rights of employees in the workplace and having an understanding of working families. This is of course what Labor would want you to believe – but can we really trust a party that has misspelled its own name? This misspelling may however be a feature that distinguishes it as an acceptable brand name. Ignoring the American influence in its spelling – the dropping of the letter “u” from Labour ensures that whilst “workers” may be the party’s base – it is not the sole focus of its policies or membership. The brand is distinct from the word from which it is derived – and so the Labor Party has both an easily memorable name with ideological connotations whilst remaining uniquely identifiable in Australia due to the spelling.
The Liberal Party has a similarly simple name – also originally based on the ideals of the party at its formation – liberalism. A lot of time has passed since the formation of the party however, and a change in the core values has occurred which leaves the name as a relic to a different ideological past. Its shift to a more conservative organisation leaves the name of Liberal as a confusing message to voters – perhaps the free market is where Liberal liberalism is now focussed – regardless, the party’s values are now far from that indicated by its branding. It’s Coalition partner The Nationals are a far better labelled party. Despite controversy regarding their recent ability to truly represent its rural constituents – the name Nationals is a nod to representation of the country as a whole – giving equitable advocacy for its “bush” members, whilst not segregating possible city or suburban members.
The Greens are a party that are going to face many more problems with their name in the coming years. The Greens growth as a 3rd option in the Australian political landscape has benefited from their focussed environmental initiatives and ideals – but it is far from a single-issue party. The problem therefore is that as the party reaches the peak of its popularity on these “green” issues – it needs to better convey the full spectrum of its policies – a task inhibited by the automatic association of the party’s name with environmental policy. Whilst recent rants about the Greens hypocrisy in advocating on issues other than the environment are both ludicrous and ill-informed, they are representative of an ignorance in the wider community to the fact that The Greens have policy on many issues – an ignorance that could hinder its further growth if not overcome.
A party with a similar naming issue to The Greens is The Sex Party. This name is it seems, intentionally provocative, especially to the more conservative citizens of this country. Sex is not the sole focus of its ideals however and yet the name and some of the party’s past campaigns have failed to truly convey its suite of policies too.
The Family First party may be about to lose its remaining representative in Federal Parliament – but it is still worth looking at its branding. The name is a great asset for the party due to its automatic positive associations – who could argue against families? Are you saying you hate children? What about kittens? Whilst such a name is great for building positive associations – the name becomes an Albatross around the party’s neck as certain citizens find that due to their differences – they fall outside the party’s myopic definition of a Family.
This is just a small sample of the many different political parties that exist in this country at the various levels of government. Single issue parties and Independents will of course have a simpler job of brand unification and naming – but for them too clarity is vital.
For multi-issue parties the job of naming is harder – but where the party’s history has left it with a name no longer fitted to its contemporary ideals, will a new name deliver branding benefits beyond the loss of association benefits delivered by time? Does a more generic name allow for sufficient conveyance of message and values – can an ideological connection be built with the voter base with a no-frills or home-brand name?
These are questions that political parties need to face in their campaigns if they are to keep their branding in line with their policies and ideals. Failing to have a relevant name can be a critical flaw in selling its candidates to the people each election.
If you have any examples of oddly named parties, or possible further branding issues, please leave them in the comments below.