Blue

This history of business is the history of branding – and for good reason. When properly constructed, brands offer a powerful shorthand for communicating value – and values. Effective brand strategies signal strong promises and reassure buyers that they’re making smart choices. Damaged brands have precisely the opposite effect. They destroy value, create barriers and undermine credibility.

Broken brands

I believe the Democrat brand is a broken brand. Stretched beyond the all reasonable limits, “Democrat” has come to stand for everything and nothing, creating a swirl of ambiguity that leaves many in the middle scratching their heads and wondering what the party actually stands for. This is true for the Republican party too, thanks to Dear Leader’s total abrogation of their core principles, but that’s their problem, not mine.

There are many ways to repair broken brands. One strategy is to begin and sustain a relentless march toward clarity, integrity, and competence. Companies do this all the time – or at least they talk about doing it. For the most part, such strategies rarely deliver the turnaround necessary to be successful. Ford Motor Company, for example, is trying to reposition its brand by promising design and safety benefits, trying to suck equity from the Volvo acquisition into the Ford brand. It will not work. I believe Howard Dean is pursuing a similar strategy – trying to reenergize the Democrat brand and have it stand for the things he so clearly articulates. It is a long and challenging path, with no more likelihood of success than Ford will have. In fact, Dr. Dean’s challenge is even more daunting because he is not in control of the brand imagery or message. Indeed, no one is in control – which means the Democrat brand is diffused through countless lenses at the national, state and local level, each standing for what it stands for more or less independently.

Rebranding

Another strategy for repairing broken brands is to replace them. That is what this diary is about. Specifically, I am calling for a new brand to replace the Democrat brand.

The new brand name is Blue.

You are seeing this strategy unfold every week with UPS positioning around the color brown. But unlike UPS, I am actually suggesting the radical move of changing our brand name . . . and realigning our brand values. And though this strategy is not rocket science, it is loaded with risk. For example, a newly named party with the same old bullshit would be a joke of tragic proportions. And it will be challenging to work around this particular risk. Because right now, Democrat and Blue are totally conflated. The color is used to describe geographies and practices that are already aligned with the Democratic party. This will have to change. Blue cannot be synonymous with Democrat. It must add value and solve problems.

One opportunity Blue creates is the opportunity to stand for something specific and simple. I will argue that that ‘something’ should be three things: Integrity, competence and the common good. And while we have the ‘common good’ dimension pretty well pinned down, I would argue that we are seen as interchangeable with Republicans the areas of integrity and competence. People believe politicians from both parties are crooks and liars . . . and frankly, there’s plenty of evidence to support that belief, especially if you look beyond federal office holders. Also, it may not matter if it’s true – perception is reality.

Another opportunity Blue creates is this: it cannot be easily countered by Red. The brand imagery around Blue is infinitely superior to the imagery for Red. Red is an aggressive color, tinged by a communist tradition, little red books, blood and worse. Blue is solid and dependable.

Green is not Blue

Not discussion of brands and political parties can be complete without acknowledging that there is already a “color” brand out there. It is Green. And while I personally subscribe to many, if not most, of what I understand the Greens to stand for, Green is not the same as Blue on the political spectrum. It’s probably safe to say that Blue is Green, but that Green is not Blue. Blues, for example, should articulate a position for nuclear power, but only as a last resort – after all conservation initiatives and alternative energy sources have been fully developed and deployed.

Green started from a blank slate, which means it had no legacy brand to borrow from and build on. That mostly accounts for the inability of Green to really gain traction in today’s political landscape. Blue would not have that problem. Blue would borrow the best of Democrat . . . supplement that best with the best of other political practices, and relaunch itself as a new progressive force. The Blue Party is not same as the Democratic Party. It is different because it is founded to three core principles: competence, integrity and the common good.

Operationalizing the transition to Blue will be a tricky undertaking. But if we do it properly, we can gain tremendous momentum. Sure there will be detractors (the Reds and the old-school Dems who like things just the way they are) . . . but if we put some substance behind our rebranding, there will could be a tremendous ground swell as well. And make no mistake, if there’s not substance, don’t bother. For example, Blues should have a fundamentally different approach to public education policy than traditional Democrats. We should be FOR experimentation, entrepreneurial initiative, less bureaucracy and accountability. But we must redefine those terms so they are not the same talking points that created the monstrosity of NCLB and never-ending standardized testing. We should be for small schools and multi-track secondary education.

More generally, we should also embrace privatization where it makes sense. Indeed, we should not just embrace it, we should advocate for it. That would give us even more power to object when it doesn’t make sense. Bush’s privatization of the military, for example, is a time bomb with devastating potential.

So now what?

For whatever it’s worth, you heard it here first. One of these days, the Democratic Party will either become the Blue Party or it will succumb to the Blue Party. And I, for one, look forward to the day when the candidates I support are listed under “Blue Candidates” on my paper ballot.

Cross posted at Daily Kos

Comments

Thanks for reading

I know this is a lot to absorb on a busy Monday morning. But perhaps it'll trigger some productive discussion.

I can go for blue....

but only if it's that lovely shade of Carolina Blue.

I'm all for rebranding and it needed to happen yesterday, but I'm a proud Democrat. I don't think I want to necessarily change party names - just reclaim the image the Republicans successfully tarnished(not without some help) over the past 20-30 years.

Democrats have a bad habit of taking the high road when attacked from the right. We prefer to let their attacks die down instead of addressing them. It probably wouldn't have hurt us to stoop to their level every now and again. They successfully painted us as a bunch of pussies (I did tell you I have all brothers, right?) who couldn't protect our country and our passive natures have fed that image.

Maybe what we need to do is stop thinking about all the things we want to say in response to their attacks and actually SAY them. So what if we come out looking slightly less pristine than we want. The Constitution of the United States of America and all the protections and freedoms it guarantees is at stake.(You can hear the patriotic music blaring in the background, right?)

What I'd really like to do is rebrand the Republicans. It isn't like they aren't handing us the ammunition. We need to lose the nice guy pacifist routine and get busy.

......and I will, as soon as I walk the dog.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I like that...

"down and dirty" every once in awhile ain't a bad thing!

Oh...and....

Excellent post, A.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Rebranding

Makes me think of New Coke.
We need someone who can articulate, without sounding all politicnitious, what ALL Democrats stand for. And, all Democrats do stand for some things.
Blue is a good idea to tie up in this notion.

What do Blue people stand for that Republicans don't?

I think it all ties in with the issue of standing up for ourselves, standing out from the political crowd, and standing down the opposition. I really want a poll where it is asked - Would you rather have a wishy-washy Representative that agrees with you on everything but is never heard or seen - or would you rather have a fighter that is always on TV battling Republicans, but who doesn't agree with you on everything.

They both get one vote in the House, but I am sure people would overwhelmingly rather have the fighter. There is a reason that Republicans would rather be loud than right - it is what the American people respond to in their leaders. Of course, Americans want someone who is loud and right, which is why GWB is FINALLY falling in the polls. Luckily, we have right on our side, if only we are willing to fight for it.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

How about a viable third party?

After Schumer and Reid shafted Paul Hackett who was going to run for the Senate in Ohio, I e-mailed Howard Dean and told him to take my name off the Democrat contact list. That did it for me. After 4 years of watching the Dems roll over and beg for more abuse, I finally gave up on the party. I will vote as an Independent from now on. I will vote for whomever I think espouses my progressive views. No more straight democratic ticket. They really don't deserve to win until they stand up and declare their loyalty to their constitutents, not corporations. Ralph Nader called it right. The rethugs and the dems are the same party with 2 different names.

Can't see it.

I used to be an independent . . . and still think that way most of the time. But, sadly, I think we're lightyears away from a viable third party. The only scenario I can imagine is if a dozen or so Senators were to shed party affiliations and create a swing block that could carry almost any vote in the Senate. But that'll never happen either.

That said, I don't think your comment is accurate: The rethugs and the dems are not the same party with 2 different names. Even though they both share some destructive obsessions with power, they are radically different in terms of their impacts on society and on the world.

That's why I've been focused on reinventing the Democrats - who I believe are substantially more committed to the common good than are Republicans. We're watching the tragedy of Republican leadership unfold every day . . . and it's very hard to see the Democrats screwing up so badly.

It's easy to want to throw them all out, and if we could, that might be a good idea. But we can't. We have to work with what we have.

Same party, different names

Hi Anglico,
We have agreed to disagree. I could not respond to you last night, but here I am. The Dems always stood for the common man. Any good social legislation was always initiated by them. That is no longer the case. They are bought and paid for by the corporate masters.
As an example, 2005 Bankruptcys Law (S.256), 16 Democratic Senators voted for this outrageous law and dear Hillary chose not to vote, which tells me she was afraid to stand up. In the House, 73 Democratic Congresspeople voted for the bill with 4 not voting.
The Dems have just absolutely abdicated their base and, more importantly, their principles.
There will be no third party in 06 and 08, I agree with you there. But, there has to be a massive base movement either to get our elected leaders back on the track or to be replaced by people who are not bought and paid for.
The only way I see to do this is to publicly fund all campaigns fully so the corporations do not have any more sway with these people than you or I do. The McCain/Feingold did not go far enough. But, of course, these people are not cutting their own throats by voting in something that would work and maybe cost them their jobs.
I would like to go back to the days of 1 person, 1 vote as would you, I am positive. The corruption on both sides of the aisle just enrages me no end.
I do think the bloggers can be instrumental in replacing the pigs at the trough with new faces. Over at Kaily Kos and other blogs, they are all for getting new people to run who are not beholden to anyone.
Let us not forget who signed the Welfare Reform Act. Yep, that illustrious DEMOCRATIC president, William Jefferson Clinton. He could have vetoed it. So what if the veto was overturned. He would have been sticking up for Democratic values.
That is why I think the donkey should be put out to pasture.

Hey.

I totally see where you're coming from and have much frustration with the Dems as a party. And you're right that there are countless instances where Dems have betrayed their principles and their base with their votes. So I grant you that. Where I disagree is when you take that to the extreme of saying there's no difference between the parties, because no matter how many times the Dems have not done what you or I might have wanted, the alternative of imperial Republicans is many times worse in many ways.

I know it's sad to be settling for the lesser of two evils, but that's often what it comes down to in politics and in life. Which is why I'd like to give the Democratic Party an extreme makeover! Not just in looks and branding, but also in substance. It's going to happen sooner or later because we are getting to a breaking point as a divided country.