By Fran Johnson
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An impossible task?

Political branding has always fascinated me.

I spend what feels like a large proportion of my time talking about limiting audiences. Whether that’s guiding clients through the art of selecting a persona for their business – narrowing down who they want to be talking to. Ensuring the communication is as targeted as possible. Or, teaching students (I tutor on the Graphic Communication & Illustration course at Loughborough University) that branding a company for ‘everyone’ is an impossible task and they need to learn how to be more rigorous in profiling their audiences.

Branding political parties is the opposite to this conventional wisdom. How do you develop a brand that targets (at least) 51% of the population?

Tory Stereotypes cartoon political branding

The background

Whether we’ve spent much time researching and evaluating policies of each of the main political parties or not, we still hold judgements about them. We could presume which political party had the highest ratio of public school alumni, or which party cared most about the environment.

Political branding needs to firstly understand and accept these stereotypes – stereotypes that change dependent on where you are in the country, your cultural background and your understanding of politics.

The party then needs to decide if they will strengthen their strengths or strengthen their weaknesses. Whilst with time, tact and wisdom you maybe able to work on both there have been numerous examples of messages failing to work or have an impact!

Hiding from the stereotype

If the conservatives decided to mount an entire campaign based on social care they may seem disingenuous – the British press would have a field day! However, if Labour decided to strengthen their stance on military might – whilst the stereotype of Labour is ‘weak on defence’ – the policy change would be believable, in part due to the Iraq war.

Strengthening the stereotype

Whilst the country is in the throes of Brexit, the Labour party under Corbyn released a pet manifesto. Whilst aligning with Labour’s stereotypes, the timing of the policy release went some way to highlight areas of weakness within public opinion of the Labour party. Their stereotype was strengthened, but perhaps not the stereotype that will gain further supporters?

Who are you speaking to?

A narrow audience creates a strong brand, a wide audience creates a winning campaign.

Can you have a strong brand that speaks to a wide audience? I believe different approaches need to be taken if the political party is the main focus of the branding, or if it’s the figurehead of the political party that holds greater importance. I’ve explored both in a series of blog posts, which I hope you’ll find interesting!


Image by Dave Brown

An impossible task?

Can you develop a brand that targets (at least) 51% of the population? Strong brands have defined audiences, strong campaigns identify with large swaths of the population - is political branding possible?

Fran Johnson - 12/04/2018
Branding a political figurehead

What can we learn about branding a political figurehead from the Clinton and Trump campaigns - the role of design and beyond.

Fran Johnson - 22/03/2018