The most successful brands consistently meet or exceed expectations. Whether Apple or Nike, Coca-cola or Tim Horton’s, people are drawn to their products because they 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 they positioning themselves within the voter marketplace and are they meeting those expectations? The previous posts looked at the Conservatives and Liberals, so now we turn our attention to the surging New Democratic Party.
The New Democrats have traditionally taken up the role of the social conscience of the nation and have been focused on keeping the governing parties in check on social issues. In that role, they have garnered respect from many voters who appreciate what the party stands for, even though they may never vote for them. The brand has been shaped by this role since the days when they were led by Tommy Douglas who used his leverage with the Pearson minority governments of the 60′s to introduce such substantial programs as Medicare and the Canada Pension Plan.
Once known as the party of the union movement, the NDP have successfully moved away from this brand position in recent years without alienating the support of unions. As a result, voters who may not be labour movement supporters feel more comfortable putting their trust in the party.
The party has benefitted from strong leaders that have helped shape the brand. Besides the aforementioned Douglas, Ed Broadbent was highly respected and often received higher approval ratings that his adversaries with the Tories or Liberals. The same is true today with Jack Layton. Of all the leaders, he is the most charismatic and voters feel they can trust that he will stick to his promises.
There are two knocks against their brand that are related: 1) they are unproven as a federal governing party, and 2) the Bob Rae-led NDP government in Ontario was deemed by many Ontarians to be disastrous.
The party has governed in many provinces throughout the country, in many cases with credible results. For some areas of the country, this reassures people that it may be time to give the NDP a chance to govern federally. However, in Ontario, the result was not positive and, given that Ontario has the largest number of seats, this experience will be difficult to overcome to form government.
The Bottom Line
The NDP brand is surging in the country, backed by strong support in Quebec and the charismatic persona of Jack Layton. However, much of the current support is coming to them by default, as voters are not happy with the recent governing of the Conservatives or Liberals. The negative perceptions will still exist until they are given an opportunity to prove them unfounded.