Understanding political image

politics & the brand concept
Dr Margaret Scammell
London School of Economics

Presentation at: Encuentro Internacional
Comunicación Política
Bilbao, 14-16 Junio de 2012

The problem of political image (1) .

The problem of political image (2) .

Do bald men always lose? Don’t be silly .

reason & emotion. issues/policy. delivery of promises and party ID)? • How do we deal with the normative legacy? – Image often associated with threat to democratic ideals (the irrational elevated over reason. style & substance. the hard and soft dimensions…? . style over substance) – Image as not real: artifice/illusion/’virtual reality’ – Political marketing often equated with ‘image politics’ • The brand concept: can it reconcile image and political marketing.g. emotion over information.The problem of political image • What is it? – Reputational factors (competence. performance or appearance? • How do we evaluate it (and which aspects)? – What really matters in political image and how do we research it in relation to other factors (e. credibility etc)? – Indicators of likeability (in-touch. one-of-us etc)? – Attributes of style.

Brands: what are they? Much more than logos… •Coca-cola: brand power •In blind tests 2/3 prefer taste of Pepsi but 2/3 buy Coke •Brand image partly owned by consumers (co-created) .

institutions. consumers. media. pleasure. planned & unplanned. value-for-money etc) • Thus brands are “cocreations” between producers and consumers • They are social constructed: emerge out of interactions between producers. NGOs. evaluation of experience (reliability.Applying brand concepts to politics: Brand identity: » the goal to be achieved – the image that the marketer wants to create Brand image: » customer perceptions of the brand • Images ‘cannot be transferred to customers’ • Emerge out of exposure to brand messages. social networks etc .

What makes a brand distinctive? James Donius model Cultural “symbol of our society” Brand Differentiators (increases in significance as more competitors meet boundary conditions) Social “grew up with it” Psychological “says something about me” Economic “value for money” Boundary Conditions Functional “works better” (determines sustainability) .

Political brands: brand differentiators adapted .

The conceptual value • Not a model of how images develop in citizens’ minds (no strict separation of boundary/differentiators) • But enables analysis of image construction (preferred brand ID) and citizens’ images • Can show how & whether boundary/differentiators are linked • Provides a basis for normative assessment: – The continuing importance of information and reason – Invitation to engage (increasing importance of political psychology) • Emotional intelligence: reason/emotion work together .

Cameron: detoxifying the Conservative brand  New logo  Symbolic policies:  vote blue go green .

Cameron symbolising the brand .

Brand images contested .

“Two arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of milk…” Nadine Dorries (Conservative MP) .

Conceptual value of brands: summing up • Accepts that modern politics is centrally concerned with competing images • Dynamic: accepts that brand images are contested (not simply transferred) • In tune with (a) political practice and (b) political psychology that argues that reason/emotion not mutually exclusive • Brings together hard and soft dimensions of policy and image (reputation. policy proposals. & the small details of style and performance) • Provides a basis for normative assessment: (when) should we be concerned if brand ID is all differentiation and no boundary/wide gulf between differentiator claims and boundary claims? .

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