February 7, 2013
What the Republican Party Really Needs
When the term “rebrand” is referred to as a “facelift”, (as it often is) it is a disservice to the work of brand strategists. Anyone who believes a facelift is going to fundamentally change how people see them is generally wrong. The same holds true for companies. When an organization decides to “tweak” its image, rather than address the fundamentals of its business, the resulting reactions range from ambivalence to cynicism to outright fury.
A facelift is a cosmetic procedure performed to change an appearance. When a “rebrand” is approached in the same way, it is about appearances, not reality. If the new appearance does nothing to change the reality of the organization behind it, the exercise is shallow and wasteful. In a recent Fast Company article* advising the Republican Party on “rebranding” themselves to win more support, the author suggests many ways the GOP could alter its appearance to be more appealing to voters.
We agree that the Republican Party will continue to lose momentum and credibility (as the 2012 election showed) until it can come to some consensus internally. But this article frames this problem from the outside, in, rather than the inside, out. It suggests that the party must change to please voters, rather than clarify and affirm what its members really believe in. This is a recipe for short term success and long term failure, because the party will just continue to tack its way from election to election. Clarity on who you are (and not just who others want you to be) is a requirement if your brand image is to be credible, sustainable, and ultimately, successful.
Identity and image are the yin and the yang of your organization’s brand. Your brand identity is who you are. It’s your purpose, what you care about, and why people should be glad you exist. Your brand image is how you are perceived by your critical audiences. If these elements are out of balance, they need correcting. Many great organizations suffer because their images do not reflect the true value of their identity, and many so-so (or worse) organizations spend mightily to gloss over who they really are, setting themselves up for failure in the process.
Of course, politics is a challenging context –most politicians will try to be whoever voters want them to be in order to get elected. The drawbacks to this philosophy are clear today and represented by the lowest approval rating for congress in history. Consider this, Republican Party – if you worry only about how you appear on the outside, your insides will continue to eat away at you. Find your true identity, and your image will follow.