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Brand Confusion = Death in the Marketplace

Brand Confusion = Death in the Marketplace

Paul McCord

Companies, organizations and even individuals spend years of toil and treasure to create a brand that sets them apart from their competition. The investment in terms of time, money and creativity can be massive. The impact a well developed brand can have can’t be overestimated.

Some brands are so recognizable that people think they know and understand the company or organization when simply hearing the name or seeing the logo. Organizations that have developed these iconic brands take great care to protect and expand the brand, trying to make sure their every move reinforces the brand’s message.

Our two major political parties have spent decades and vast sums of money building their brands. Both parties have invested both their short-term and long-term success in their brands. And although the brands are associated with particular individuals and events, each is most closely tried to and defined by a perceived political ideology.

Hear the word Republican or just see the elephant and most people have certain images and beliefs that come to mind:
• Conservative
• Budget conscious
• Strong on national defense
• Strong on law and order
• Against big government
• Generally favors tax cuts
• Supports business
• Supports free trade
• “Middle America”

Likewise, hear the word Democrat or see the donkey and most people have another set of images and beliefs come to mind:
• Socially liberal in thinking
• Supports changes in society
• Tax and Spend
• Supported by labor unions
• Blue collar
• Protectionist
• East and West Coast “elites”

Most of the images and beliefs we have about these parties have been carefully crafted by the parties themselves, a few others have been foisted on one party by the other in order to sully the brand. Nevertheless, for most of us, when we think Republican or Democrat we tend to think of some or all of the above images.

Because of the strength of the associated images and beliefs of each brand, we believe we know something about a politician when they say they are a Democrat or a Republican. We expect a Democrat politician’s political philosophy and votes to be closely aligned with our concept of what a Democrat is. Likewise, we expect a Republican politician’s ideology and votes to reflect what we believe a Republican is.

When a politician of either party doesn’t act according to their brand, we question whether or not they are really what they say they are. They are viewed as mavericks or independent thinkers. We don’t question whether the organization has lost its way; we simply question whether the individual in question really fits within the organization.

But what happens when a majority of the organization’s members act counter to the brand? We no longer question whether the members are mavericks or independent thinkers; we question whether the brand itself has any meaning, any substance. If the organization acts counter to the brand’s image long enough, the brand loses its meaning and its effectiveness within the marketplace and the market eventually comes to distrust the organization because what it does, doesn’t match what it claims.

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