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Political Branding in Labor's 2007 and 2010 Campaigns

Next up at CMPM2014 is Lorann Downer, whose focus is on brand strategies of the Australian Labor Party in the 2007 and 2010 elections. Political branding is a consciously chosen strategy to identify and differentiate parties and instil them with functional and emotional values, and this is expressed in part in the brand architecture

Brand architecture determines the hierarchy of brands from the same producer; it determines how brand elements are used; transfers equity between brands and offerings; and creates a "house of brands" or alternatively a "branded house". In Australia, the ALP has a federal structure and operates as a branded house, repeating certain logos and other elements.

Such architectural questions are recognised by the campaign managers, who highlight mainly the party brand and that of the political leader. These are variously dialled up or down depending on circumstances and political perspectives, and matched with specific slogans which act as a "full stop" to the current message.

In 2007, the campaign was crafted around Kevin Rudd, a new and positive brand which transferred value to the then tarnished ALP brand. In 2010, both the Gillard and ALP brands were undermined by the public disquiet about how Kevin Rudd had been replaced by Gillard.

Rudd's brand in 2007 was a mix between values compatible with the traditional ALP brand, and distinct values attributed to the leader which weren't shared by the party brand (social conservativism, a distance to the unions). This was also expressed in a number of different logos relating to these distinct but related brands.

Different slogans were also used – "new leadership", "fresh thinking", and "new leadership, fresh ideas". These were strongly positive slogans, and they were deployed strategically to highlight the differences between Rudd and John Howard.

In 2010, ALP branding was rarely seen, and Gillard was heavy on slogans but light on logos. There was no personal logo for Gillard herself, unlike the 2007 election. The Labor logo and name do not appear in any ALP commercials, beyond the mandatory authorisation statement. Gillard was perceived to be closer to ALP values than Rudd, but as a result also further from the centre of the electorate.

ALP slogans centred around "moving forward", and there was also a significant use of negative campaigning using the "don't risk Tony Abbott" slogan. A "stronger economy, better hospitals and schools" slogan was also used.

In 2007, then, practitioners clearly understood and embraced the importance of slogans and logos, with heavy emphasis on the leader, combined with appropriate party branding. In 2010, Gillard was featured centrally, with Labor as a silent partner. The overall ALP performance in commercials and news coverage was uneven.

In 2007, Kevin07 carried the weaker Labor brand until it could stand alone, and Rudd's positioning added key percentage points to the election result. In 2010, planning was competent but the execution was uneven, and Labor barely held on to power with the help of the independents.