Building a Conservative “Brand.”

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  • 08/19/2022

Those who are right of center have been feeling encouraged these past couple of months as they have been watching the Biden Administration begin to implode under the weight of its incompetence (or incontinence). The President’s poll numbers are crashing, and the only easy path to a replacement that exists within his party, Vice President Kamala Harris, has numbers as bad or worse than the President’s.

Things don’t seem so bad for progressives, do they?

While conservatives (I’ll use “conservatives” interchangeably for “Republicans”) have been busy ridiculing the Biden Administration, the President has been able to pass his $1.3 trillion infrastructure bill, has gotten a predominantly socialist spending bill through the House, and has completely undone all of the meaningful executive order accomplishments of his predecessor. When you put it that way, things don’t seem so bad for progressives, do they?

Conservatives need to face the reality that the folks on the other side of the aisle have been much more successful at getting things done and getting the American people to go along with them, either passively or enthusiastically. I have a theory about why that is and what needs to be done to reverse the course.

[caption id="attachment_199844" align="aligncenter" width="1280"]U.S. Constitution. U.S. Constitution.[/caption]

Consider what each of the below titles share in common:

Build Back Better. New Deal. Green New Deal. Affordable Healthcare. War on Poverty. DREAM Act. For the People Act.

The answer is clear: these are very catchy-sounding phrases attached either to legislation or initiatives sponsored by Democrats. The above list is not exhaustive, but it is a representative sampling of how those who are hostile to a traditional American way of life package their initiatives in a way that just plain sounds good to the majority of Americans.

The “New Deal” is close to a hundred years old. These folks are not new to this game.

My business background over many decades emphasized brand building and the need to create messaging that resonates with a target market. The messages need to not only sound positive, they also need to be consistent with the branded image a company is trying to build.

The left has consistently found new ways to thinly slice our population ... then turn to the party of the disadvantaged to assist.

Progressives, liberals, Democrats—call them what you will—have been branding themselves since the days of FDR as the party of the disadvantaged (whatever that oxymoronic phrase really means). Whether it be working-class Americans, racial minorities, “gender” minorities and groups identified by sexual orientation, take your pick, the left has consistently found new ways to thinly slice our population, figure out a way to get people to identify as being oppressed or victimized, and then turn to the party of the disadvantaged to assist.

In support of that brand, Democrats have come up with very catchy ad campaigns that fall under their branding strategy, and sound actionable to their traditional target market (blue-collar workers, teachers unions and government employees, unions, etc.) and that are tolerable to outsiders. Who can argue with affordable healthcare? Who doesn’t like to dream? Who could not be for the people?

By way of contrast, can anyone tell me what the brand is for conservatives or the Republican Party? It is my contention that they do not have a positive brand image that they have purposefully created. The fact is, the brand image most associated with them has been created by the other side. Not only has the left succeeded in negatively branding conservatives over the past 60 years, but they are also well into the process of negatively branding them for a new generation of voters!

Ask most people above the age of 45 or 50 how they would describe the Republican Party, and you will likely hear that they are “party of the rich.” Ask the same question of younger people and they will probably say something like “Republicans are the party of rednecks and racists.” Neither of these “brands” is representative of mainstream conservatives, but both are being effectively hung around their necks by their “competitors.” Any action conservatives try to take and any legislation they try to pass, the other side twists it into a perceived effort to accentuate the brand images that the left has created! 

This has happened because conservatives have not purposefully created their own positive brand image, so any time they try to do anything that can benefit the country, the left demagogues it as something either beneficial to only the rich or steeped in some version of ignorant racism and oppression.

[caption id="attachment_199846" align="aligncenter" width="1280"]CPAC stage. CPAC stage.[/caption]

The last time that conservatives had a successful messaging campaign goes all the way back to the 1990s and the tenure of House Speaker Newt Gingrich. It was then that he and his fellow House members created the “Contract with America”: a list of pledges that conservatives made to the American people for what they would try to accomplish. Regular Americans could understand both the simple message and the succinct points made within the Contract. That “contract” translated into votes and positive enthusiasm for the Republican Party.

Conservatives need to do more than just hit the public with a one-time successful messaging campaign: they need a new brand.

The Contract with America was an example of effective messaging, even though it was done outside of a non-existent or even negative branded image. Newt and his team found a way to reach voters with a message that resonated, and it swept them to victory in the 1994 midterms.

The Contract with America was a great example of the power of clear communication with voters. Today, however, conservatives need to do more than just hit the public with a one-time successful messaging campaign: they need a new brand. And they need to approach rebuilding their party image in much the same way you build a business image.

Here are five steps (easy to list, difficult to execute) the Republican Party needs to take to help themselves to not only win elections, but to advance a pro-freedom, pro-American, pro-individual rights agenda:

  1. Define their own brand image they want to convey.
  2. Create messaging points for major policy initiatives with themes that can resonate not just with the party loyal, but with all Americans regardless of party affiliation.
  3. Start to line up specific actions to take that are consistent with the brand image and that can be clearly and succinctly messaged.
  4. Collect facts and anecdotes that support numbers 1-3 above. The facts must be simple and irrefutable. The anecdotes must be compelling.
  5. Develop a strategy that delivers the above in the right format, across all platforms, and to all varying demographics.

Anyone who has successfully built a business would read those five points and think I was stating the obvious. To our conservative political leaders, however, they seem as non-decipherable as an archaic foreign language.

[caption id="attachment_199847" align="aligncenter" width="1280"]GOP debate stage. GOP debate stage.[/caption]

As we now clearly see the glaring missteps and gross incompetence of the Biden Administration, we must know that today’s celebration of its failures is certain to eventually fade into the shadows when the “party of the disadvantaged” comes up with their next clever marketing campaign. Since the days of the New Deal, elections have come and gone, and they have won some and lost some. What they haven’t done, however, is to betray their brand or lose focus on their messaging.

The left has been focused on its mission. The policies they espouse center around undoing our traditional institutions along with the principles found in our Constitution and replacing them with a collectivist model. Up to this point, they have been pretty darn successful. The reason behind this success is their ability to create a brand and supporting messages that deceive the average American into believing they are something they are not.

The kinds of questions conservatives need to answer for themselves are: What are we? What do we stand for? How will our policies better the lives of everyday Americans? If they can answer those question, succinctly and honestly, then they can find the right ways to convey their messages to the American people.

The future of our republic rests in the hands of those who might be bold enough to dare answer those questions and take action.

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