He asserts that the political parties are wrong to think of themselves as brands, and adopt over-simplified slogans and positions. And I agree completely with him. We talked about this a little in our post Brand Bullshit Week a few weeks ago:
Conflating political parties and consumer brands is fucking nuts. Idiotic. Thinking of political parties as brands is the kind of shit that has got politics into the horrible state that it's in. They are ideologies, the approaches of which, people can genuinely (and violently) agree or disagree with. The idea that people have the same kind of relationship with political parties as they do with a brand of sandwich spread is beyond fantasy. This idea that 'everything is a brand' and everything a brand problem, is a moronic plague on our times.But I think what we're getting close to here is something else, something that should be deeply worrying for anyone who commissions or works in advertising. The problem with political parties adopting marketing and advertising approaches is really the problem with where advertising and marketing currently finds itself.
Let me put it this way, twenty years ago advertising seemed to really help the parties and the election campaigns, the techniques and crafts of communication helped these ideologies communicate with power and simplicity the problems they were trying to solve or their point of view.
What's changed isn't that the parties are wrong to turn to marketing or advertising for help. It's that marketing and advertising are currently in a right fucking state.
Contemporary marketing and advertising thinking has evolved into something completely facile and woolly. It thinks that everything is about brand, it thinks everything is a brand problem, and it places way too much emphasis on what people feel, and has completely lost the substance of what it is saying.
Everything isn't about brand. Everything isn't a brand problem.
Marketing has completely lost touch with the customer, and with business.
It's in no man's land.
The business makes a product or provides a service - mostly based on a good idea of what people want or need.
And the customer buys (or doesn't buy) this product, based on a number of factors depending on the category, but largely on whether they think it will fulfil their need.
And then in the middle comes marketing and advertising - who so often feel completely cut-off from that above dynamic - in fact many people working in advertising don't even see themselves as part of that process. Marketing sees itself almost as a separate 'industry' – whereas obviously in reality they are part of a shoe company, or toothpaste company, or company that builds cars.
They have their own set of beliefs and their own world which seems increasingly divorced form the reality of the punter, the product and the business.
This is why so much advertising seems facile and moronic, this why boards, chief execs and FDs are increasingly frustrated with marketing and with advertising agencies.
And it's why you can end up with advertising and campaigns that half the time you have no idea either what they were advertising or what the point of them was. Thirty seconds of fluff with a logo stuck on the end. A moronic slogan and giant packshot. Another cute animal or movie rip-off.
And it's why current marketing and advertising thinking is no use to the political parties.
It's facade and fluff, image and polish. It's all dressing, and no meat.
It's probably not a bad moment to mention that we have a book coming out in a few weeks that attempts to offer a solution: How To Make Better Advertising And Advertising Better (The Manifesto For A New Creative Revolution). Keep your eye out for it.