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What the Democrats Could Learn from Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola probably has the strongest brand image in the world, unlike today's Democratic Party.

Do you remember all those Coca-Cola ads where the guy would explain the reasons Coke is so delicious, list various benefits of drinking it, and tout the drink’s global presence and growing market share?

No?

Maybe that’s because those ads never existed. And yet, Coca-Cola is the most recognized brand in the world. It has maintained a titanium-strong brand image and a loyal customer base for years. The Democratic Party should be taking notes.

You see, political parties are essentially brands. As much as we’d like to imagine every citizen dutifully collecting facts and performing high levels of careful, informed analysis before forming opinions about politicians and their policies, the truth is that this is simply impractical. While the education system and media have plenty of blame to share in terms of failing to produce informed citizenry, the American people themselves deserve a bit of a break on this front. Not everyone has the time, information, interest, and education to sift through all the political points that are thrown at them. That’s why political parties are so important. John Q. Public can walk into the voting booth on election day and immediately be able to assume some very important things about the candidate with either a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ next to their name, even if Mr. Public hasn’t done all his homework.

Unfortunately the Democrats seem to be missing most of Coke’s time tested-lessons. They are trying to explain specific policies; they are trying to argue facts and data, and they are trying to assert their track record. In short, they are trying to be like the guy I described at the start of this post, rather than a polar bear with a coke bottle.

Yes, the policies are important. But so is message, and right now the Republicans are winning with their tried and true refrain of “smaller government.” It is a clear and coherent message, and a positive image for most Americans. It doesn’t matter if their policies amount to class warfare against the poor, welfare for oil companies, or even bigger government. If Democrats really want to fight for the policy minutiae they believe in, they are going to have to work on building their brand. There’s still some old imagery that might be good to dust off, like the Democrat as underdog. “We fight for the little guy” might be a succinct slogan that the public can get on board with. No need to change policies or beliefs – just reiterate them around the framework of a coherent message. It might take a walloping in the mid-term elections before the Democrats figure this out, but if they can get it straight, and begin to build a clear brand image, I think a lot of folks would find it… refreshing.

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  1. Jameela
    September 14th, 2010 at 21:14 | #1

    The democrats have been struggling with a messaging problem for a LONG time…You definitely hit the nail on the head.

    Too much detail and too much explaining…the need to go with short slogans like the republicans. I like “we fight for the little guy” or maybe even something broad like “we’re on your side”. I mean the republicans use “family values” as if us on the left don’t care about families. If they can do it, we can do it!

  2. David Brisson
    September 15th, 2010 at 01:34 | #2

    Absolutely! While counter-slogans like “Hate is not a family value” can be catchy, it leaves Democrats looking like they are always just reacting to Republicans’ definitions, when they should be actively trying to define themselves.

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