The most successful brands consistently meet or exceed expectations. Whether the iPad, the iPhone or the Macbook Pro, Apple consistently delivers cutting edge technology in a cool, sleek package. People who are drawn to their products know what to expect and trust the company to deliver on that expectation again and again.
But what about Canada’s political parties? How are positioning themselves within the voter marketplace and are they meeting those expectations? The previous post looked at the Conservatives and now we turn our attention to the Liberals.
The CBC’s Vote Compass has shown that most Canadians are most closely aligned with the policy position of the Liberal Party. That makes sense, as the party positions itself in the centre with a balance of economic and social responsibility. However, this also seems to hurt them in the current politically charged landscape as they tend not to offer polarizing policy stances at either end of the spectrum that galvanize support from a portion of the population while offending another.
For most Canadians, the Liberals have traditionally been the safe and comfortable choice, designed for the mass market. But these days, people are more specific with their choices. That could spell trouble for the Liberals unless they can stake out a well-defined position that people can gravitate toward.
There are two significant knocks against their brand: 1) the sponsorship scandal has not been erased from the public’s minds, and 2) Michael Ignatieff is an unproven commodity.
It’s very difficult for the Liberals to overcome the sponsorship scandal. Even though Michael Ignatieff was not involved in that government, the mistrust still exists with the overall brand. Overcoming it would require a switch to happen in the minds of voters that completely takes their attention off that recent history and toward a new direction. That could happen with a significant policy, such as when Mulroney introduced free trade, or with a dynamic and charismatic leader, like we say with Obama in the U.S.
The party tried to introduce a significant policy in the last election with the green shift, but it was effectively attacked by the Conservatives and failed to be a rallying point. As a result, the key to them doing well in the election rests with Michael Ignatieff pulling off an incredible performance that brings people “under the big rent tent”. So far, pundits and the media have remarked that he’s been doing well in that regard. New ads – see below – have been designed around building an image of him as friendly and caring. But is he dynamic enough to cause the switch to happen in voters’ minds?
The Bottom Line
The Liberal Party brand is still untrusted by many Canadians. They can be won back, but the Ignatieff brand has to capture the imagination of Canadians to do so in this election.