The Republican presidential primaries and debates have been fascinating, if not whiplash-inducing, to follow. The candidates continue to float on the winds of public opinion rather than their own personal convictions and vision. On any topic, they appear more interested in setting themselves apart from the competition than in having firm positions that constituents can rally behind. Focus groups form politicians’ positions on issues, instead of politicians working to help constituents understand and value what they really stand for. The absence of a clear frontrunner so far is evidence that candidates are failing to define what they stand for and that they lack resonance with the American electorate.
The word “politician” has taken on negative connotations; it is more and more likely to define a person who will say or do anything to get elected. There are plenty of politicians in the world, and it seems few are irreplaceable. Brands should not fall into the same trap. To be effective in the marketplace, a brand must clearly communicate what it represents and what it aspires to become, and then deliver on that promise to its customers. The opposite approach – building a brand based exclusively on customer opinion or desired image – is a recipe for failure, as the brand in the end will lack identity, and will likely be forgotten when the next new product comes along. The more effectively a brand communicates and delivers on its promise, the more likely customer experience and feedback will reinforce the brand’s position.
The Walt Disney Corporation stands as a perfect example of brand conviction and purpose. Despite the ups and downs of the entertainment industry and economy, the brand has never strayed from its promise to deliver high-quality, family-oriented entertainment in a variety of formats. As a result, consumers know what to expect from a Walt Disney product when it is released without questioning its authenticity, quality, or content.
To be considered a true political leader, a candidate must have and communicate a vision; an authentic theme that voters can focus on and associate with that person. The same is true of a brand. Without clear vision and promise, a candidate becomes a politician, and a brand becomes a commodity. Both will recede from relevance when the next new “thing” comes along.