Branding and Politics

As many of my readers know my colleague Joanna Chan and I have just completed a Guide to Branding in the Public and Not-for-Profit Sector. Perhaps we need to write a guide to Branding and Politics. Maybe we will do this one day but a recent article in the Globe and Mail caught my eye and in a strange way was a great case history  of branding and politics .

According to Marguerite Wente “the Democrats have Sonia Sotomayor. The Republicans have Sarah Palin. That’s all you really need to know. Between them, these two women explain why the Republicans are doomed.”

Ms. Wente   describes Sotomayor as a Latina who grew up in a Bronx housing project. She is a symbol of Hispanic aspirations in a country where Hispanics are an increasingly powerful political force. She’s known for her ferocious drive and work ethic and, appears to be a moderate and most important represents the American dream in action. Guess what “The Republicans hate her”.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand according to Ms. Wente, was the most scarily incompetent vice-presidential nominee in the history of the United States. “She graduated from the University of Idaho, where she majored in communications (still not her strong suit). She represents the Peter Principle in action. The Republicans according to what you hear in the media love her. “(I must say as a Canadian who is not the least bit sexist, that the love that many on the right have for Ms. Palin “boggles my mind”)

As Ms. Wente points out, Karl Rove the Republican strategist who worked for W has stated that Sotomayor does not have the intellect for the job. Republican pundits have called her a hot-tempered, dim-witted bigot whose judicial activism could play havoc with the American Constitution. Newt Gingrich has called her a “Latina racist.”

What is astonishing to Wente is that these same Republicans   continue to insist that Sarah Palin is qualified to run for president of the United States and that she is the victim of a vicious smear job by the eastern media elites. After she bizarrely quit her job as governor of Alaska, two-thirds of registered Republicans said they’d still vote for her for president. What does that say about the Republican Party and its brand?

Here are a few more facts from Wente:

  • “Ms. Palin styles herself as a working-class hero. In fact, her father was a teacher, and her background is utterly middle class.  Sotomayor’s father died when she was 9. He was a Puerto Rican factory worker with a third-grade education.”

  • “Ms. Palin despises people who were educated in elite Ivy League universities. Judge Sotomayor, on the other hand, was smart enough to get into them. She put herself through school on scholarships, and graduated from Princeton with top honours. Ms. Palin, who finds homework disagreeable, has never doubted her own abilities for a minute. But Judge Sotomayor worries constantly that she’s not good enough. “I am always looking over my shoulder, wondering if I measure up,” she has said.”

  • “Ms. Palin plays identity politics to the hilt. But Republicans charge that Judge Sotomayor’s identity will dangerously skew her judgments. They can’t seem to grasp that everyone’s perspective (even theirs) is to some extent informed by their background and life experience. No one should be shocked that a minority woman from the South Bronx might have a different lens on life than, say, Karl Rove. Sonia Sotomayor put it nicely when she said, “I simply do not know what the difference will be in my judging, but I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.”

After the Bush years, you would think that the Republican Party would recover and regroup and start rebranding itself to be more in tune with the American voter especially new voters and the growing ethnic population.

From a branding perspective you would think that the Republican Party would try to renew itself. You would think that they would have gotten the message that important segments beyond their base are not buying their message. The polls are showing that they are losing the battle of the hearts and minds of many segments. Are they in self-denial?

Wente ends her article with “people who argue that Sarah Palin is good for America while Sonia Sotomayor is a threat are obviously out of their minds. They are determined to drive their own party off a cliff into oblivion. And they’re succeeding nicely”

Here is something the witless Republicans may want to digest, Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic in America and often the deciding bloc in swing states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. After the Republicans’ anti-immigration-reform stance alienated Hispanic voters, they became a key ingredient in Obama’s victory, with the Democrat winning two-thirds of their votes nationwide.

In the world of marketing we often see the companies in self denial like the Motor city wonders at General Motors who has recently emerged as a new company fresh out of bankruptcy. A recent article in AdAge headlined Carmaker Emerges from Bankruptcy, taps Bob Lutz as their new head honcho for marketing.  Lutz is in his late 70’s.

BUT doesn’t GM need more of an up-and-coming, digital-savvy CMO.  GM did tell the world that they need new blood and that it’s not business as usual at the “new” GM.  Then the first thing they do is appoint an icon in the American car industry who started his career in many decades ago.  Mr. Lutz does seem to indicate that “GM has to do something radical” but is it not the “same old same old”?      When you want to completely renew and rebrand your company is bringing in a retread from the past the best way to do it? Is Lee Iacocca going to be the next President of Chrysler?

Let me know what you think

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