Politicians as brands

What can we learn from the downfall of Tim Farron and the rise of the Corbynista?

As I watched last week’s election results unfold, one thing became clear: political parties (or more specifically politicians) and commercial brands often have to play by the same rules if they want to win with the hearts and votes of the general public.

The fates of two party leaders in particular serves as a reminder that if you want a loyal fanbase, you need to be strong in your convictions and genuine in your behaviour.

Election winners and losers: reaffirming a paradigm for brand engagement

Ok so the Labour party didn’t win the election. But they acted like they won it. And one of the key reasons for this is that for the first time in years, they had a leader who inspired, delighted and mobilised key sections of the general public.  In particular, Corbyn had the backing of the youth – that seemingly impenetrable tribe of digital natives who had eluded most politicians’ call-to-action up until this point.

So what was it about Corbyn that captured the imaginations of a traditionally disengaged audience? The answer primarily lies in his cultish personality – he’s not afraid to go against the grain, has a clear point of view on the things that matter to people and stands up for what he believes in.

Let’s compare this with the (now ex) leader of the Lib Dems, Tim Farron. His campaign was repeatedly marred by the accusation that he was prepared to say things in order to win votes that his Christian faith prevented him from truly believing in. In essence he was charged with being inauthentic and fake.

This reminds us that consumers are more ready than ever to call out when they see a disconnect between the story they are being told and the person telling them that story. This is just as relevant to brands as for politicians.

We often help brands to identify new territories that they can play in and use as platforms for re-positioning. However one of the things we make absolutely sure before we let a client go wild with a new ‘big idea’ is to ensure they can credibly own it. If the brand doesn’t fit a positioning territory – no matter how attractive it is – we would always warn against it. No-one wants to be a Tim Farron after all.