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An Introduction to Political Branding

The second speaker at CMPM2014 is Andrew Hughes, whose focus is on political branding strategies. Branding is a large area within marketing exchange, of course, and aims to influence the cognition, affection, and behaviour of consumers.

Key elements in this are brand preference, brand value, brand positioning, and brand architecture, and these all have their expressions in political branding: elections measure brand preferences, voters perceptions of which parties are on the left or the right reflect brand positioning, and the perceived relations between individual leaders, state and federal parties reflect the brand architecture of political parties.

The political market isn't all that different from other markets, then: how political consumers respond to brands, and how they engage with them, is not all that different – people might have turned off voting, but not politics and political questions as such. They want to engage with parties on an equal level, and this has also led to the success of new political brands (from Kevin07 to Palmer United) which seemed to promise a new style of engagement.

The aim of a political brand should be connection, engagement, experience, and value, then; some parody accounts lampooning parties on social media have more followers than the official party accounts, Andrew says, because they offer better engagement. And emotions are the most critical part of any marketing model: a brand must resonate with consumers in order to develop consumer-based brand equity.

To be resonant, brands must answer who they are, what they are, what response consumers should have to them, and what relationship they should have with them – only answering these questions holds an opportunity for building brand resonance. (Negative advertising does not do this, Andrew points out.)

Responses to brands include the immediate, emotional, experiential response, and then the enduring, considered, longer-term view. But what is especially important here is the depth of the response, which determines the strength of loyalty, attachment, and sense of community consumers experience.