Monday, 23 January 2012

Politics and the sub conscious

Hello I will be writing on advertising and branding issues, and the psychological drivers that encourage preference of brand A over brand B, so here's a start : Ed Miliband.

Yes, exactly the same factors are in play when choosing a leader as when choosing anything else in life, and most of it is driven by sub conscious instinct not reason.

The mistake the Labour party made in appointing Miliband was to over-intellectualise his strengths when they should have asked  themselves one simple recruitment question : "Does this man have the charisma to lead?"

In the millisecond it takes for the average human  to react to his physical characteristics and presence, and  in the absence of potentially redeeming features such as conspicuous past political bravery, brilliant wit or history of radical successes, the battle is all but over. Add to this the impression that he was the grass roots' second choice over his more charismatic brother, and the urgent need to eradicate the greyness of Brown with the glitter of someone shiny and new - indeed someone who might even be a valid successor to Blair- and the rout is complete.

The charisma thing is largely physical and increasingly de rigeur in modern politics - Miliband comes across literally as a lightweight, looking perhaps like a junior maths teacher - but the leadership signals that candidates give off are equally critical, and can overcome physical shortcomings.

What is leadership? Put simply, leadership is about suggesting to a group that you have a better fix on one simple thing than any one else: and the name of that one thing?... The Future. The future is the big unconscious fear that won't go away. It is the territory that kings and chiefs and popes and generals and successful business people have used for centuries to persuade people to follow them: "I know what will happen tomorrow, so trust me." The conviction with which they carry off this clairvoyance is the decisive factor. Cameron's vision is unclear and bitty,but he fills the vacuum with an easy-going charisma and occasional acts of populist bravado (eg Europe).

Thoughts for marketers:

Plan: Ed Miliband was rushed to market.His win was probably a surprise to him as well as his team, and because his background PR was so ill-prepared he has been on the back foot since. The supportive emotional groundwork behind his claim to be adopted and loved by the grass roots was not carried out.

Package: However, even in the time available, his physical presence should have been beefed up: Susan Boyle proves everything is possible.

Understand the continuum and his place in it: Whilst his past credentials were undramatic, Miliband's fix on "the future" is equally weak. Without a strong, tribally emotional message to follow him into the promised land - together with some immediate evidence of progress or some overt act of bravery - his message, such as it is, will fail. Like any brand , he needed to position himself strongly in the continuum of the market (past, present and future) to answer the question: Why me? Why now?

Employ "Match and Move": Miliband does not connect because the signals he gives out do not match the picture of what the party (or the electorate as a whole) have in their hearts as a Labour leader. Because there is no match there is no possibility of a move. See

Cut, run and regroup: I worked with a major brand of shampoo once that failed in the UK after about 2 months following a negative PR campaign against it: it was a terminal case and should have been withdrawn at the time, but it continued to be promoted for some 7 years at very large cost until it eventually died a death. Labour will  compound their error if they keep faith with Miliband, they should act decisively now, before it is too late.

Change the team: The Labour party grandees that presided over the election, together with the PR advisors behind EM should look to themselves.They gifted the Tories.

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