Federal Election and Branding – Common Messaging

So some of the big news right now in Canadian politics is the Conservative Party and how they are either removing volunteers or keeping people out of their events for having supposed ties to opposition parties.  Of course, we know the angle the Toronto Star is taking on the issue (paint the Conservatives as evil) and the angle the Toronto Sun is taking on it (talk about something separate where the Liberals can be bashed) but essentially this comes down to a simple matter of brand image.

The Conservatives have worked hard to create a certain image over the past few years, one of a united party with common goals.  Whether or not they have really achieved this is up for argument, but there has definitely been an effort to present a cohesive party under their leader.  Stephen Harper has made it very clear that he is the one in charge and that his decision is the final one and this has translated into the general public having a sense of confidence in his leadership compared to his competitors.  Even though the opposition parties have made it clear that there is not going to be any sort of coalition, the Conservatives keep bringing it up, creating an issue in the minds of the public where there really isn’t one.

Essentially what the Conservatives are doing here is taking shots at the image of their competitors.  They are trying to demonstrate that the Liberal, NDP, Bloc and Green brands are not strong …much in the same way that a car company would find strategic ways to comment on the strength of their brand, how their cars are winning awards and are selling the most units while their competitors are being sold from company to company and still trying to carve out their own niche.

So when people went up in arms this week about individuals being kept out of Conservative events or volunteers being dismissed because of having photos of themselves with opposition leaders on their Facebook pages, I couldn’t help but think, “Well yeah, that doesn’t seem that unreasonable.”  Let me make it very clear:  On the federal level, I am no fan of the Conservative party.  There’s no need to roll out the laundry list of why I don’t think they are fit to be the ruling party of the nation, since this post really isn’t about that.  But if you look at this issue as a company taking hold of its image, then it doesn’t seem that out of line.

Imagine you’re an executive at Coca Cola and there were photos of you smiling and hugging with executives from Pepsico.  If those photos got back to your managers, how do you think they would respond?  What if you rolled into the parking lot and had the latest Pepsico slogan on a bumper sticker on your car.  Do you think your managers would find that amusing, even if you said that it was from a long time ago when you used to work for Pepsico?  Let’s be reasonable. Your company spends a lot of time and money making an effort to create a consistent image, so when even the smallest of dents is put in its armour, you have to understand that an effort is going to be made to eliminate the problem.  There’s not a whole lot to think about.

It doesn’t really matter what your political views are, this issue is all about messaging.  If the shoe was on the other foot, the other parties would do the same thing.  Whether they would do it in the same fashion is up for debate, but the end result would most likely be the same.  When you are working on creating a consistent image, whether over the long term or short, you can’t take risks having your own members (or employees) straying from the message.

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