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Brand Regression: The Mismanagement of a Political Brand

By Charlene Peterson
November 7, 2014
Brand Regression: The Mismanagement of a Political Brand

Steven Pearlstein, the always insightful writer for the Washington Post's business section, predicted the Democrats would not have a good day this past Tuesday. We now know how right he was, but I suspect few of us were surprised. He chalked up the Democratic defeat not to the usual political reasons but to what he identified as a "failure of brand management—in this case, the Democratic brand."

The article emphasizes what Greenfield/Belser has always insisted: a brand is more than what you do or say but how you do what you do and how you say what you say. "Brand" is not just a marketing buzzword. It is, as Pearlstein says, "the simple, enduring idea that cuts through the escalating noise in the marketplace, overcomes the rampant cynicism among consumers and allows companies to recover from the inevitable bad luck of missteps. And what is true for companies also applies to political parties."

My personal feelings about Tuesday are not relevant here but it is dispiriting to see a brand mismanaged, whether it is the Democratic Party or MySpace. A brand is so difficult to build and so easy to destroy. MySpace will not recover. The Democratic Party probably will, simply because the see-saw of politics is built into our democratic (small "d") system. But one always has to ask how effectively are we communicating our brand? Our actions may be aligned to our brand values but does the tangible expression of our brand—words and images—capture those values and inspire our targets?