Scott Brown will officially become Massachusett’s newest senator on Thursday evening. And while that’s good news for his many supporters – both inside and outside the GOP -- Republicans are on the verge of making the same mistake that the Democrats did when Barack Obama was elected: thinking that Brown’s suprise victory is an endorsement of his party when it is really is an endorsement of a man and a new way of tackling the same old problems. In both cases, we saw an election of individual personal brands --not company brands (i.e., Democrats or Republicans). That was why candidates Brown and Obama were winners.
I can’t say it enough, folks, people buy brands, not companies!
For his part, the newly minted senator from Massachusetts is playing it smart. He’s distancing himself from the Republican status quo and calling himself a “Scott Brown Republican.”
But for Brand Republican there is a real danger that they will pat themselves on the back and continue to be the party of “no.”
Since President Obama’s 2008 election, the Republicans have lacked a clear cut vision of the future. Being the party of NO is simply not enough. This is like marketing a product because of what it is not instead of what it is. This strategy has been tried before. How about 7-Up…the “un-cola”? 7-Up might have gained some market share at first, but it never managed to gain much momentum against Coke and Pepsi.
Successful brands have clear cut visions of the future that are positive not negative. End of story.
Reagan was not so much *against* big government as he was for small government and the wherewithal of the American people to make good choices if they were just left alone to do it. With a positive brand vision, consumers/voters know where the brand plans to go and grow and because they know this they become a part of the brand’s growth through their support.
What does this vision involve? Well, it needs to be based on what the GOP has always stood for: equality of opportunity but not a guarantee of wealth and happiness (i.e., we’re talking about our nation’s foundational values, “the pursuit of happiness” not the automatic right to happiness).
In other words, Republicans need to make clear that they are not in favor of government handouts, or a nanny state, but that they are for a society that supports opportunity, a free market and individuals willing take roll up their sleeves and take risks. They need this kind of affirmative, concrete platform to build the future of their party’s brand.
Scott Brown might be that transformational leader who can supply Brand Republican with this kind of foundational road map and the energy to get there. We will see. But until Brand Republican stops being a party in disarray without a marketing vision, no amount of tea party enthusiasm and special election victories will translate into long-term electoral success.
And, remember, business of entertainment and politics is always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.
John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert and the founder and president of Marketing Department of America. His book, People Buy Brands Not Companies, is being published in the first week of February.