The Marketing of Confidence
Thierry Giasson (Université Laval) has published about televised political debates in the Canadian Journal of Political Science, political journalism in the Canadian Journal of Communication, politicians’ image management in Questions de communication.
It is understood in academia that political marketing is akin to the marketing of services, where a strong relationship based on confidence, credibility and trust must be achieved between a producer (the political party) and its targeted consumers (the voter). It is such because a political offer is intangible, it deals with values and ideas, it is based on promises of delivery, and it imposes an act of faith from the potential consumer when evaluating the producer’s ability to fulfill those promises once elected.
Not unlike the marketing of insurance, financial, or legal services, the marketing of politics should be anchored in confidence building, an exercise achieved by creating real dialogue with voters and including them actively in the creation and development of an offer. This is why notions of trust, experience, competence, integrity, and transparency are so often mobilized in brands political parties try to embody during an election. These concepts are refered to because they help alleviate consumers' uncertainty associated with the selection process of intangible goods, such as political programs and promises.
A brand is the public image, the core value, the very definition of what makes a product distinct from its competitors. In marketing terms, it is also referred to as the “unique selling proposition” of a product. Consumers should be able to identify it quickly and without hesitation. The brand is promoted in advertising campaign and in slogans.
So how are federal parties doing in terms of brand positioning this time around? Are they actively promoting confidence and trust with voters in their communication?
The PCC’s slogan is ‘Here for Canada’. The core ideas underlying it are presence, patriotism and action. This seems to say ‘We are taking charge, we’ll take care of you’.
The NDP’s slogan, putting party leader Jack Layton at the center of their offer, states ‘That’s Canadian leadership’. It is always presented in ads contrasting the NDP’s offer with Conservative and/or Liberal actions. This is saying ‘they failed as leaders, we’ll do better’.
The Liberal’s slogan ‘Your Liberals' addresses voters directly and seems to say ‘we listened, this is what you want’.
Will these brands reach their markets? Can they help parties broker political confidence in what many described as a sceptical and demobilized Canadian electorate?