The political party should avoid Tim Farron’s advice and revisit the idea at the heart of their brand – liberalism
How do you rebrand a political party? It is interesting seeing the comments of Tim Farron and his desire to rebrand the Liberal Democrats but not change their name. A brand is the idea at the heart of an organisation that provokes all they do. Typically, a rebrand is either a fundamental change of the core ideology of everything you are, or at a more pithy level, a change in how you visually manifest that core idea.
We can all see that the Lib Dems have lost contact with the electorate, but I wonder if what they consider a rebrand is really what they need? Is their issue the idea that drives them or rather the way they propagate that idea in today’s society and culture?
All political parties need to consider how they construct, disseminate and communicate their core ideals and policies and provoke engagement from their audience. And to my mind, there has only been one instance of breaking from the norm of political campaigning in recent times.
Cast your minds back to the heady, optimistic days of 2008. Coming out of eight years of George W Bush, with 9/11 and its warmongering aftermath, along came a fresh new voice for US politics. Barack Obama swept to power on the back of change and hope. Obama’s 2008 campaign was groundbreaking in its use of social media to engage a younger audience and to make his campaign one for the people rather than one to the people.
The social audience has grown massively since 2008 and now contains a large portion of mainstream society, which means it is not the domain of the radical youth alone. Remember one key point though: conversation may happen on social, but it invariably always starts in the real world.
My message to the Lib Dems is not that revolutionary. Just behave like a (good) brand. Throw out the manifesto. A booklet outlining your policies is so outdated it should have disappeared with the mini disc player in the 90s. Bring to life one core ideology in a singular message that can last five years, back it up with five key principles and translate those into the headlines of your policies.
Start campaigning now. Have one big idea a year based around each of the above five principles and let people be unequivocal on your position. Ensure you disseminate all of the principles in digital and social, get off your green seats more, stimulate conversation in the real world – and listen. Clegg and Farron making a surprise appearance at a #libdempint Twitter event this week is a perfect example of the behaviour that needs to happen to show the wider world you care and are in touch with the voting audience.
Try not to lie and make yourself accessible.
All you can do is communicate effectively what you believe. If that doesn’t work, then you must accept that the masses do not agree with you. You then change what you believe (not recommended), or accept you are not a mainstream party.
You must have faith in the intelligence of the voter. This election showed that irrespective of your feelings relating to the outcome, the electorate voted on far more considered points than the horrifically trivial and superficial agendas set out by the mainstream press. Believe in them and treat them with respect, and you will by and large have the same back.
And never stop. Obama’s team missed an opportunity to carry on engaging with their audience post-election and continuing to effectively grow their relevance on the social and digital space. They didn’t stop outright, but it was clear that it had been felt that “it had done its job”.
The British are a funny lot. Steeped in tradition, yet obsessed with change and trend. A heritage and history envied the world over, yet when it comes to modernisation, this weighs heavy, wrapping around the legs of progress. Couple that with our unique, emotionally repressed culture and a rather zealous tabloid media, and you have a very British situation.
In summary, the opportunity for the Lib Dems, and all parties, is to stop operating as Edwardian entities in a modern society. I would urge against a radical rebrand and instead ask them to reconnect with the idea at the heart of their existing brand – liberalism. Look at every aspect of how they activate that message, in every way, with every corner of Britain, to every aspect of society.
Original was posted on The Guardian.