Published March 30, 2010
If you want to get a sense of just how close the Republicans are to destroying their brand, you don’t need to look any further than this YouTube remix of “Yes, We Can,” the successful Obama campaign video. In it, the positive Obama “Yes, We Can” message is interrupted by John Boehner screaming “Hell No, You Can’t”.
Whatever your politics, this is simply bad news for Boehner and the Republican Party. Propaganda you say? Sure, it’s propaganda. But, wow, does it work.
Why? Because the Republicans are feeding the image of unreasonable, hate-filled obstructionists who have abandoned the disciplined and optimistic spirit of Ronald Reagan for a brand unsure of what it is all about.
Sure a minority power in opposition must frequently says “no,” but it has to make this “no” ring with a positive affirmation of values and the electorate’s needs and it has to explain why it’s saying no.
Before the Republicans rush into trying to repeal Health Care, they ought to read Dana Milbank over at The Washington Post who has just reminded all politicos that Alf Landon ran his disastrous presidential campaign of 1936 on trying to repeal Social Security.
People will always complain about medical care, and they will especially complain about a problem-plagued system. As the inherent flaws of the new legislation become clear, Republicans should be ready to address them.
What the Republican Party needs to do is reposition itself as the opposition party that listens and responds to the people.
This is called brand differentiation. When one brand, in this case the Democrats, is not perceived as filling a need, in this case actually listening to the people, then a competing brand like the Republicans must promote how it is different.
First, the Republicans must really listen to the people. Maybe the people won’t want everything about health care repealed. Maybe they’ll want it improved. Republicans can learn this by conducting extensive market research. The main point is to abandon the outright “we know best and it’s repeal” approach and adopt a “listen and repair” approach.
Second, the Republicans must show the people that they are listening. To do this, all Republican candidates should hand out business cards with the number for a “Legislation Hotline.” This number would give the voter the opportunity to weigh in directly on specific legislation both pending and on the books.
Successful brands have clear cut visions of the future that are positive, not negative. End of story.
Whatever they do, John Boehner’s “Hell No, You Can’t” must be replaced by “Yes, We Can.”
If it isn’t, the Republicans will be in the wilderness for a very long time.
And, remember, things are always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.
John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert and president of the Marketing Department of America who markets his own services as The Marketing Doctor. He is a frequent contributor to the Fox Forum and the author of a new book "People Buy Brands, Not Companies."