November 08, 2009

Primary Colours Fading Fast

What's the opposite of the halo effect?

It seems America's primary political brands have grown horns and a forked tail if the recent actions of some candidates are anything to go by. In its Branding The '09 Political Races article, Fast Company reports that politicians on both sides of the divide are keeping their party colours well hidden and flying the generic patriotic flag instead.

Brand commentators talk of the halo effect when brands bask in the virtuous glow of another brand's deeds but it appears that both Democratic and Republican candidates in State elections in the US believe that their primary colours have lost their lustre.

Are we now seeing the horned effect?

A visit to the websites of candidates for Governor in a number of states reveals lots of stars and stripes and whole fields of blue, red and white rosettes, but very little indication of where the candidate stands in terms of party loyalty.

It's almost impossible to imagine a politician in this part of the world washing party colours out of the election mix in this way. And it's extraordinary to see two of the world's most recognisable political brands diluted or damaged to such an extent that local tribal leaders prefer to daub on more universal colours before going on the war-path.

(It's also a measure, of course, of just how powerful the patriotic ideal remains in that part of the world when politicians fall over themselves to appear more American than their rivals).

If political leaders don't invest in their own brands, then how do they expect voters to either believe in those same brands or know what they stand for? Are political party brands just flags of convenience, to be lowered or discarded when they no longer fit?

Or is it possible that in this more transparent society we will see elections fought on the question of character and personal integrity rather than along party lines?

Somehow, I doubt it.

Even if we are seeing a return to more broadly patriotic values, there is something dispiriting about this desertion from the political camp. When politicians merely wrap the old flag around them in the hope of attracting voters, there's a real danger that they do so in order to disguise either their naked ambition or a poverty of ideas.

Over To You: Do you think it's a good idea when politicians deny party affiliations or does it show a refreshing sense of independence?

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