Chaos in Political Brand Identification

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Shreveport-Caddo Election Failures

brandingby Marion Marks

Branding began as the unique mark you put on the back end of a steer to show ownership. It evolved in politics as the symbol voters see like a party label or group of known supporters. Shreveport-Caddo voters will focus this fall on failed brand identities. Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator recently helped voters define the brand of Caddo District Attorney, Charles Scott as it relates to white-collar crime prosecutions.

Diamond Charlie Caldwell BrandCandidate identity was thought to be the job for a marketer sending out post cards, planting yard signs, seeing the candidate at a forum, or even face-to-face at neighborhood meeting. Political brand messages have become more intrusive and generally less effective with blanket advertising on infinite channels and mediums that seem a torrid beauty contest. Voters learn little about the candidate, much less about substance of the candidate. Voters generally learn who has the most money and power to throw at winning office. Too many voters fail to look below the surface of the candidate’s campaign message.

Political Branding has never been anything you could trust, but most voters made their choice based on a hunch, name recognition or the “team” the candidate had in a supporting role. Branding is a confusing concept. The “secret sauce” of marketing and branding a candidate has created media legends we see during political seasons. They speak of capturing ingredients of the secret sauce along the difficult path of winning public office.

Sitting on stoolBranding that captures votes is often as simple as a logo on the cup, but it’s really so much more. True brand identification is both seen and unseen; it’s something you often know when you see it, yet it may be undefinable. A Candidate Brand is an accumulation of all the thinking, positioning, brainstorming and planning that creates a relevant experience to connect a candidate with prospective backers and voters. It’s the voter’s opinion and perception of the candidate that counts. Unfortunately hollow candidates dupe voters all too often.

It would be nice if there were a “Coke” candidate. And, you could say he or she is The Real Thing,”or you could say that’s the Chick-fil-A candidate because he always has cows plastering graffiti on billboards. Perhaps Shreveport and Caddo have suffered enough from incumbent candidates who haven’t performed up to their slogan expectations. Failures such as these have few chances to improve and infinite opportunities to recreate failures.

diet-coke-parody-Real-ThingSome have proven they aren’t even close to being “The Real Thing.Shreveport City Marshal Charlie Caldwell demonstrates a record of lavishly using public money (proven in reviews of spending by his office). His “discretionary funds” have been spent foolishly. Caldwell proved his capability to use public monies on personal clothing, trips and worthless “educational programs.” His Boston “study program” and beach ventures for “nuts and bolts” have been at great cost to taxpayers and little return. Caldwell’s D.A.R.E. parade car seems to be an expensive toy even other agencies won’t touch.

Voters are disenchanted and angry at elected officials who don’t keep commitments. Running for office, candidates make lots of commitments, but these words are too often hollow commitments.

Candidate platforms and campaign promises are scorecards for job performance, delivery of goods, services, citizen experience or care they plan to deliver. Good elected official brand-experiences require delivering on promises, and in best-case scenarios, elected officials over-deliver! Successful officials put citizens first and personal agendas last. Failed elected officials under-deliver to the public.

UNTrustworthyElected officials demonstrate who they really are to voters who study the record, however there’s normally a heavy a price the public pays learning. Success can’t be faked or photocopied from someone else. Voters need to give emerging challengers scrutiny during a campaign, and keep a close eye on incumbents seeking reelection.

It’s still early in the political season, and the view out the window may seem greener to challengers, but at the end of the day, it’s a long campaign ahead. No fancy flyers or animated commercial is going to make a candidate something they basically are not. Voters need to study and reminded of failures.

The current crop of candidates probably feel the itch to run for office, and, if it’s in their heart and character, their proposals will get a fair hearing. Too many candidates, including some we believe are having their names shouted about today, were talked into running for office, pushed by eager business opportunists because of the needs of others. Candidates put in the position to run who are not prepared have a recipe for failure. It’s trite to say, but, To thine own self be true!”I question some announced candidate’s sincerity.

Introspection and self doubts will creep in and the inner devil will whisper to some candidates all the perils ahead. I can only hope some inner soul speaks loudly of the commitment required to seek public office. Candidates personally invested to solve problems and remain loyal to citizen needs should qualify and run for office. It’s far more costly to fix the failed system than to do the job right the first time. We are paying and will continue to pay for failures.Charting North Star

Leaders need to have clear focus on the North Star. They must remain competitive when words continuously transform offerings, communications, and the level of work required for voters to believe that they are relevant and committed to serve. Their North Star must remain an eternal guide.

Mission in the stars...
Lost Mission…

Candidates can lose their way as paths become clouded and understanding why and how voters build trust, or in today’s vernacular, ‘create relationships’ with voters in the first place. In a strange way, strong candidate brand values encourage a voter to explore new avenues and still find value in actively supporting any candidate. There is a cycle of support for candidates over the lifetime of the campaign cycle when a voter first learns of the candidate through the time the vote is cast. Stronger candidate brand identification can be seen in a cycle where momentum is strongest on election day.

Successful candidates find that they cooperate with voters to co-create and co-communicate the vision necessary to get votes and hopefully committed active support. If a candidate message doesn’t move the needle, it’s not worth much. Most messages are no more than a cute or amusing signal if they cannot move the voter closer to pulling the level for you as a candidate. Branding involves finding and externalizing the most profound connection of a candidate or offering the audience the opportunity to make the connection spiritually.

Most candidate brand identity messages connect with voters in ways that are easily duplicated. Conversely, most attempts at differentiation end up no more than trivial “cute messages.” That is why candidates must ask, Why does MY brand exist? If it didn’t exist, what would voters do?’before externalizing any connection or message. Understand the status quo first, and right now the bar is set very low. A successful candidate will create drama in their campaign. Timing messages for drama is an art, but too much drama turns voters off.

There’s some “Secret Sauce” out there for all candidates, as well as plenty of reason to be optimistic. However the system certainly not seem favorable if the basic “steak” in your character doesn’t have substance. We have some incumbents, who I believe look in the mirror every day and have a hard time quantifying their reason for continuing to serve in public office. We need new leaders who will look in the mirror and find that they believe they can make a difference in making their community better because of their service. We must remain optimistic that new leaders will emerge who will make a change for the better where change is needed. When we find such new leadership we must nurture and support them in anticipation that we will avoid pitfalls of the past.

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