The Evolving Brands of Political Parties

Ten years ago when someone would think of the Republican party, “web savvy” and “grassroots” would not be words that come to mind. I remember George W. Bush showcasing his tech ignorance when he used the term “internets” in the 2000 presidential campaign and most famously during the 2004 presidential debates. During the 2008 campaign, John McCain admitted he never felt the need to use email. It’s easy to see why Republicans have been caricatured as a party of old men out of touch with the technology.

In 2000, the term “grassroots” would not be a commonly used word to describe conservatives. Grassroots campaigning belonged to the progressive Democratic party. The Democratic party has always been branded as the party of the common man and political activist. From Vietnam to the Iraqi war, the progressives were the ones organizing at a community level and protesting for or against a cause.

How that has all changed. In 2010, it’s not a Democrat who is the most effective at leveraging the power of the web and social media, it’s a Republican- Sarah Palin. When she tweets or posts on Facebook, it’s a national news story. She posts a message about “death panels” during the health care debate and it’s part of the national discourse.

The Republicans’ brand as a party of rich, country club fat cats who only donate money and don’t personally volunteer has also changed. When the tea party first came out, people like Nancy Pelosi would brand the movement as “astro turf” and really just an artificial movement funded by special interest. That has turned out not to be the case. Love or hate them, the tea party is a national force that will have major impact on the 2012 presidential election.

Brands can evolve over time. As a small business owner, one should complete a SWOT analysis of their own company. S (Strengths) W (Weaknesses) O (Opportunities) and T (Threats). When you’re a start up, a common weakness listed can be ” clients view us as inexperienced.” That may be a component of your brand when you start out, but it can be quickly be part of the past as you effectively build brand awareness and solidify a position in the market. Just think of the political parties and how their brand positions can change.


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