Monday, April 12, 2010

Oh, What's in a Name? A Quick Lesson in Branding

The defection of former Liberal Dave Taylor to a party of one has gotten me thinking about a lot of things. Will this weaken or strengthen the AB libs? Will Taylor manage to hold onto his seat? But, most importantly, did the Liberals do the right thing in holding on to their name?

Maybe the connection between this move and my last question isn't all that obvious, and I'll admit that I have no where near a degree in marketing, but I think we can make a few assumptions about the development of "Brand".

A brand is an emotional aftertaste that's conjured up by, but not necessarily dependent on, a series of experiences. For Albertans, the Brand "Liberal" conjurs up some nasty flavours such as "National Energy Program" and "Trudeau". Even people who are my age, that weren't even alive to know exactly what those things taste like, still manage to evince a collective cringe upon the mention of the party.

The Brand "Liberal" is successful insofar as everyone has an emotional aftertaste associated with it. However, the negative associations just won't go away. Is that such a big deal, though? The Brand I'm talking about has little to do with the policy the Liberals actually have. To answer that, I would pose that same question to the rural voter who would "... never vote for the money-wasting Liberal party".. the same voter who, when shown "party independent" (Liberal) policies as the platform for an unamed party, is suddenly interested in changing their vote.

The thing about Brand, though, is that its shared emotional aftertaste is platform-independent. Continuing to tell people that the Provincial Liberals are a different entity than the Federal Liberals; that thier policies are different, that they care about Alberta, etc is only going to get the party so far. The Brand is already established, and nothing short of a miracle is going to change that.

Is it a good idea for the Liberals to shake their Brand in favour of something new and untested? In my opinion, absolutely. If the emotional aftertaste of Trudeau or urban-centric policy or the NEP was going to go away on its own, it would have by now. The Liberals need to be proactive in being a good opposition (or, dare I dream, forming a government): resting on the laurels of a bad - though successful - Brand isn't doing them or Albertans any good. I think somewhere inside, Dave Taylor thought so too.