There has been a lot of talk over the last few years about the GOP “brand,” but few people have gone into any sort of depth on the subject. So, let’s take a little time to think about the GOP and branding.
What Is The GOP Brand Promise?
First off, what is the “GOP Brand Promise?” Of course, there is certainly a lot of debate about this subject, but I’d suggest that it can be broken down into some very basic categories…
* Limited government.
* Fiscal responsibility.
* Low taxes
* Traditional values.
* Law and order.
* Clean government.
* Personal responsibility.
* A strong national defense.
Granted, you could easily add quite a few more items onto that list, especially if you wanted to really get deep into specifics, but I think that’s a fairly representative list.
Ruining The Brand
If the items listed above make up what people want from the GOP brand, are the people who like our brand getting what they expect? Of course, the answers would vary from person to person, but I’d suggest that in several areas, we’re not delivering what we promise.
For example, consider how the following policies contradict our brand image:
Limited government: The bailout, the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, nationalizing banks.
Fiscal responsibility: Large deficits through the Bush years.
Law and order: Support for illegal immigration.
Clean government: Jack Abramhoff, Duke Cunningham, Don Young, Ted Stevens.
Personal Responsibility: The bailout. Support for illegal immigration.
Conservatives And The Brand
Conservatives have been extremely upset with the GOP in recent years — and for good reason. They don’t support the GOP because they happen to live in a particular area, the way they do a football team — they support the GOP because they like what it stands for, because they like the brand. When the GOP doesn’t do what it says it’s going to do, conservatives feel as if they’ve been sold a bill of goods. They signed up for limited government, fiscal responsibility, & clean government — they got the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, huge deficits, and Ted Stevens. If the GOP were a product, conservatives would be filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau Bureau alleging fraud.
Moderates And The Brand
When moderates turn away from the GOP, it’s often suggested that we need to dilute the brand to get them back. However, in practice, this hasn’t worked out very well since Ronald Reagan came on the scene.
Why is that?
Well, let me suggest something that seems counter-intuitive to many political junkies: moderates tend to like the GOP and the Dems for completely different reasons.
That happens all the time in the business world. A consumer may end up choosing between, let’s say, a very expensive, high quality, big screen TV that’s loaded with features and a very cheap, lower quality, smaller screen TV that has basic features.
Do they like both TVs? Sure. Could they be happy with either TV in their living room? Sure. However, they like both televisions for completely different reasons.
So, let’s say you own the company that makes the more expensive TVs and your marketing research team tells you that slightly more consumers who are torn between both TVs are choosing the cheap TVs because of the price.
Do you then try to reduce your price and tell the whole world about it? Maybe, but that could very well end up being a counter productive strategy. After all, your competitor is selling TVS for a considerably cheaper price. So, people who are making a decision based on price are probably not going to choose your TV. In other words, it might make more sense to add another feature people want or to rewrite your advertising campaign to feature your superior quality and the large size of your TV.
How does this apply to the GOP?
I would suggest to you that the thing that moderates like best about the Republican Party, on the national level at least, is our brand. In other words, they tend to like the Republican Party for the same basic reasons that conservatives like the Party and the reason that they have become upset with the party is the same reason conservatives have become upset: the brand has been diluted.
Put another way, when they buy the GOP TV, the price is still fairly high, but the screen isn’t as big as advertised, two of the features don’t work, and the darn thing breaks every time you look at it funny. So, what you have is a Party that represents the worst of both worlds: it’s for big government, runs deficits, is corrupt, & supports illegal immigration — however, the government doesn’t give you as many free things as the Democrats, they don’t stick it to the rich guys you don’t like, and they don’t promise that the government is going to do almost anything and everything you could ever want them to do for you.
Summary: This is still a center-right country and the GOP brand can continue to win elections. However, this “new Coke” called “compassionate conservatism,” which features rapidly expanding government, large deficits, corruption, incompetence, and amnesty for illegal aliens has been a horrific failure — and that should have been painfully obvious long ago. But, that just goes to show you, once again, that the market is much faster and smarter than our politicians. Coke brought the “old Coke” back less than 3 months after the introduction of “new Coke” while the Republicans seem poised to continue pushing “compassionate conservatism” even after being brutally beaten in two straight elections.