Politics and marketing have never been so closely entwined in an age of 24-hour news and false facts. But after three years of Brexit burnout, the marketing teams behind the parties fighting in today’s historic general election have never had a harder time mustering enthusiasm from a largely disenfranchised public.
It’s up to the third-parties with no real skin in the game to really bring out the creativity in this tepid affair. Paint brand Valspar teamed up with FCB Inferno to give it the old college try, producing a colourful envoy to be driven through the streets of London (see header) displaying each party leader alongside the colours that represent their election campaigns.
Jeremy Corbyn is painted as both ‘Mad About’ and ‘Faint at Heart’ to reflect his marmite personality, while Boris Johnson is presented as ‘Utopia Beckons’ and a ‘Snake Charmer’. Jo Swinson, meanwhile, is given a gentler treatment and is presented as both ‘Light and Fluffy’ and ‘Simply Brilliant’.
It’s a clever way to galvanise voters into action and remind them who they are voting for. But is it really who they are voting for? Have we really bastardised political discourse to the extent that party leaders can be summed up by a few snide remarks? This is the reality that political branding has wrought on the world and we’re all culpable. But how have the two main parties faired this December? What does brand Johnson and brand Corbyn actually look like?
If there has been one running theme that’s characterised this election it’s been that of mistrust and transparency. However, whilst Boris Johnson has been called out time and time again as a liar and a fraud and has stumbled his way through some increasingly ridiculous campaign trail blunders (#fridgegate), his polling numbers remain high. His voters simply don’t seem to care that he’s lying to them and why? Because that’s just ‘good old Boris’. He is, in many ways, the most expertly branded politician of our times.
Ironically given the actor’s disdain for the Tory party, Boris Johnson has been branded as a latter-day Hugh Grant - a bumbling mess of hair and confusion that is somehow endearing even when spouting outrageous and often offensive nonsense. This is a brand he has been cultivating for decades and it’s one that can be seen reaching its logical conclusion in the cringe-inducing Conservative party election video below - an abhorrent Love Actually parody that probably had Richard Curtis reaching for the bleach.
The fact they actually had to name the clip “Boris Johnson's funny Love Actually parody” speaks volumes - he’s being branded as the joker; the rapscallion; the ‘cheeky chappy’ and anyone who can’t see through that wafer-thin branding has no business calling themselves a creative.
And in the red corner, we have Jeremy Corbyn, a man who has spent the last few months being debased and hounded by the media as a doddering old man and a #marxist #anti-Semite #communist. On a personal level, I like Jeremy Corbyn; he’s everyone’s favourite geography teacher. As a leader, however… It’s a role that’s been thrust upon him and a role he probably never really desired and that’s why all attempts at ‘branding Jeremy Corbyn’ have largely sunk without a trace.
If Johnson’s brand was all about being a larger than life character then Corbyn’s is very much a ‘man of the people’, which has always been the Labour Party line and it’s one he treads admirably, if without much conviction. Indeed, conviction appears to be the one thing Corbyn is lacking and this is perhaps what has worked against him these last few months. Compare the final Labour election broadcast (below) with its Conservative counterpart. The latter might be a cringe-inducing mess but it’s at least memorable. The former, meanwhile, is little more than empty sloganeering.
The call to action of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has always been that it’s “time for change” and given the relative awfulness of the last decade, it’s easy to see why they would be so vigorously tapping this particular vein. But, quite honestly, I think that the reason the Conservatives have managed to gain so much positive media coverage (aside from the obvious fact that most wealthy newspaper owners have a vested interest in paying less tax) is that despite their lies and their baseless smears, they have pitched their branding perfectly. Labour, meanwhile, have taken it all a little too seriously, which is certainly commendable, but simply doesn’t play well in an age where memes speak louder than facts.
Between the cracks
Our choice today in the first December election for almost 100 years is between a cartoon character and a completely fallible and decidedly vulnerable human being; a party that’s told more lies than truths and a party that means well but probably can’t deliver on half of its well-intentioned promises. And that’s not just me talking, that’s the brand.
I’m not going to tell you who you ‘should’ be voting for as there is no such thing as a good bad option and, ultimately, what’s important to me might not be as important to you. But before you put your cross in that box, take a second to think how these men and their parties have been sold to you and how that might have clouded your judgement. Because beneath all the blister and bile and between the slogans and slurs, this is the most important election of our lives and whilst branding might be an incredibly powerful thing it can all too often colour over the cracks.
And let’s be honest, politics in 2019? It’s all cracks.
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of Creativepool.