The most successful brands consistently meet or exceed expectations. BMW positions itself as the ultimate driving machine and it places its emphasis on superior engineering and design to ensure it delivers on that brand positioning. You won’t see them offering a line of economy class cars because that’s not who they are and that’s not what their customers expect of them.
But what about Canada’s political parties? How are they positioning themselves within the voter marketplace and are they meeting those expectations? Over this current 2011 election, we’ll look at the brand of each of the three main parties. We’ll start with the front-runners.
The Conservatives have been very successful in positioning themselves as the best stewards of the economy. It’s a fact that Canada has fared better than many other countries through the recent economic crisis and the Conservatives have been taking the glory for that. Is it deserved? Considering they introduced the stimulus plan only after the threat of a coalition forced them to prorogue parliament and “re-calibrate” their position, one could argue with that. However, there is evidence that the economy is rebounding and this strengthens the perception in the minds of many voters that the shrewd economic managers brand position fits.
Of course, they have also staked out positions that resonate with their party faithful – they are tough on crime, they favour spending to strengthen the military, they oppose the long gun registry, and they are in favour of tax cuts to corporations and individuals. This position puts them in a very strong position with their conservative-minded base, many who are baby boomers and seniors. These folks are also a portion of the population that feels very strongly that it is their civic duty to turn up to vote. That’s a strong foundation upon which to build.
On the down side, the Harper-led Conservatives were first elected because they were going to fix Ottawa and take us away from the days of the Liberal Sponsorship Scandal. As time has passed, they have not met this expectation and the party has significant questions of integrity hanging over its head.
They are also perceived as being inactive on the environment and climate change, and closely tied to the oil industry in the west. This is a negative for many younger voters who care deeply about this issue.
The Conservative Party brand, as with all parties, is linked with the personal brand of Stephen Harper. He has been a polarizing figure and Canadians either love him or despise him. He is perceived as very serious and a bit of a control freak, but is given a great deal of latitude due to the economy. Harper won’t electrify people with his personality, but people know the country is not going down the tubes with him at the helm.
The Bottom Line
The Conservative brand position as stewards of the economy is strong and will trump the negative perceptions in the minds of many. They are likely to again form the government, but their strong positions on some issues will make it difficult for them to reach a majority.