Brown, Cameron and Clegg’s personal branding comes to the fore

Branding industry observers say the televised General Election leaders’ debates, the last of which takes place tomorrow night, have led to a greater emphasis on the personal branding of each of the leaders – rather than the party they head.

Two debates have already taken place featuring Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Gordon Brown, Conservative Party leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. Futurebrand chairman Chris Nurko says, ’It’s the first time in Britain that the leaders’ personal branding is emerging as a force, because of the televisual elements of the campaign and less distinct core values.’

Nurko says, ’Brown, the thorny rose, is not telegenic, and although he’s the Prime Minister does not look particularly bureaucratic.’ Outside the televised debates Brown is trying to overcome this by branding himself as a team player, which is why he is often photographed with his wife or colleagues, says Nurko.

Saffron principal Ian Stephens says Brown is adding authenticity to his brand by trading on the fact that he is not a PR man, but a man of judgement. Interbrand London managing director Graham Hales says Brown’s attempts to change this identity to be more camera-friendly, such as staged smiles, have not been wellreceived by the public.

Nurko argues that just as Brown has come to be seen as Labour’s thorny rose, Cameron is positioning himself as the youthful face of a new type of Conservatism, just like the tree depicted in the party’s logo. He projects himself as a man of the people by constantly referencing theindividuals he has met, says Nurko.

Stephens agrees that although Cameron has been successful in ’detoxifying’ the Tory brand, his personal branding is not as consistent with this as Brown is with Labour’s image. Stephens says, ’Cameron is similar to when a company brings out a new product and hopes the public doesn’t notice the old ones.’

Now that the election campaign is reaching its final stages, observers predict that all three party leaders will begin to sharpen their brand language. Brown is using the language of fear to encourage voters to stay the course, says Nurko.

Alternatively, he says, Cameron is capitalising on the message of change. However, Liberal Democrat leader Clegg has also taken on the banner of change and has projected himself as a true reformer, despite coming from the same background as Cameron, says Nurko.

Siegel & Gale managing director Fred Burt says, ’Clegg is branding himself not just as an alternative, but as a new way of dealing with politics. His encouragement of cross-party discussions [during last week’s leaders’ debate] was a smart and deliberate move.’

A political brand personality survey from branding group Added Value claims the British public thinks Brown and Cameron are both ’rulers’, while Clegg is a ’nurturer’.

The leaders’ brands are…

  • Made up of three parts – style, substance and policies, and core values. ’Each leader is looking for a perfect blend of all three,’ says Siegel & Gale managing director Fred Burt
  • Established through language, personal style, campaign visits and consistency with the party brand
  • Trying to tap into traditional values of Britishness -David Cameron’s references to traditional British farming,and the retro imagery on the cover ofthe Labour manifesto, says Futurebrand chairman Chris Nurko

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