Why The Republican Party Needs to Re-Brand Itself

The Republican Party is in turmoil, no doubt about it. White males in suburban and rural areas, their core base, are sick and tired of Government and want an “outsider”, even Donald Trump. Meanwhile young voters love Bernie, and women and minorities support Hillary, despite questionable trust in her. The Republican establishment is bewildered because their traditional message no longer resonates with most of their constituents. In short, the planet has turned upside down for them. And these dynamics aren’t so not the same as the constant changes in the marketplace that force companies to sometimes re-position their brands.

There are clear signs that the Republican Party has lost its way. In a CNN/ORC poll in March, only 10% of Americans have plenty of confidence in the G.O.P providing real leadership for the country. The perception of Congress, controlled by Republicans, is just as bad – only 15% approval rating, down 6 points from February.

democratic party The branding challenges facing the Republican Party are significant, and also can provide a good lesson for businesses when they experience market changes that affect their brand image:

The Customer (i.e. Voters) – nothing is more important in branding than constantly monitoring the mark audience and their evolving passions, and having the capacity to adapt accordingly. Older white males with less education and income, a primary target for Republicans, have grown impatient with promises of higher income and better jobs. They identify the Republican elite with big business and the wealthy, the “donor class”. Certainly the Citizens United case fueling the power of super PACs and the influence of wealthy donors has contributed to this disenchantment, leaving these downscale voters with the impression they no more have a voice. Even though many of the voters drifted to the Republican Party between 2008 and 2012 because of their frustration with Obama, they are now very skeptical and see Washington dominated by lobbyists, contractors and lawmakers who have ignored these voters’ growing anguish.

Meanwhile the profile of American voters is changing dramatically. The Millennials have become the largest voting bloc and are gravitating to Bernie Sanders along with his idealistic promises, which are very different from the mandate of Republicans. Even younger Republicans are not in sync with issues like immigration; for example, 63% said they supported giving immigrants an opportunity to become citizens (source: poll in March by Public Religion Research Institute). In addition the voting power of minority segments keeps growing rapidly, with their frustrations with the Republican brand. The “Tea Party” conservatives could be the most passionate and outspoken, but their views are seen by many as too extreme and you can find not enough of these to win the primary Republican goal, the White House.

Running a business, the emotions and desires of a brand’s target customers, plus its profile mix, are always in circumstances of flux, aswell. Smart companies understand how important it is to identify emerging trends and the evolving needs of their customers, and can re-position their brands with modified promises and/or new features to sustain their emotional bond using them.

Competition – The race for the Republican nomination has attracted entirely new and different candidates with strong views outside its traditional mantra of values and brand positioning (i.e. “outsiders” like Trump and Cruz). Trump’s belligerent propositions, while they could interest heretofore loyal Republicans (e.g. white males, less educated) who today have dubious perceptions of Congress and Republican leadership, are clearly not based on the views of the Republican elite. Cruz has galvanized the extreme right, but his brand image is hostile rather than in keeping with the old Republican persona. In business, when new competitors arrive, savvy companies will assess which competitive brand promises are so appealing, and why, and either revise their brand positioning to resonate more (rationally and emotionally), and/or create new offers to convince customers that their basic promises still represent better value.

Brand Promise or Message – there is definitely a glaring disconnect between the traditional views of the Republican Party and the attitudes of these standard voter base, especially on an emotional level. The embarrassing insufficient trust of the Republican controlled congress (only 41% of Americans trust Government today) and the perception of its elitist leadership being out of touch, have fueled the anger and frustration of all voters. More important, it has also undermined the relevance of its mainstream brand promises. As in business, the key is to re-evaluate their customers and revise the brand message to emotionally interact with their passions, and to appeal to emerging segments that offer greater prospect of achieving their strategic goals.