Politics or Branding – Character wins the vote

30 Apr 2010|Added Value

In the UK, political leaders are battling to establish their brand characters to win the people’s vote.  As the televised debates have shown, this election will not be won on policies alone; it’s the personalities that will help swing it.We believe the most powerful brands have a clear character at their core. A character that helps the brand stand out from the competition and create a powerful, persuasive emotional bonding with consumers.

We created CharacterLab as the starting point for character creation. A uniquely engaging, objective and interactive online tool, CharacterLab uses the power of archetype thinking and the rigour of a consumer-validated quantitative measurement system to make the decision on character development simple, intuitive and compelling.

Characterlab uses archetypes* as the currency for measuring character and delivers three distinct solutions; it reveals what your archetype foundation actually is, its relative strength/consistency, and how distinct it is from your competition. It enables you to create new or alternative archetype directions for your brand; and it allows you to test creative development and communication, before activation, to determine if it’s on archetype or not.

So in the most testing and topical of environments, we decided to put CharacterLab through its paces using the imminent UK elections. How powerful and persuasive are the characters of Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s ‘brands’ in winning over voters? We recruited 1300n would-be voters to select the primary and secondary archetypes of their ideal leader and that of the three main candidates.  We’ve summarised the findings from our survey below. But if you haven’t got time to read it now, you can drop us a line to get the full media report or find out what CharacterLab can do for your brand.

* Archetypes are a system for classifying personality types that has been used in psychology for over a century.


The Nation’s Ideal Leader?

Selecting from twelve archetypes, the respondents chose four equally weighted character qualities for the ideal leaderNurturer, Hero, Sage and Regular Guy. This blend corresponds to a leader who will combine a steadfast sense of duty, responsibility and commitment with a clear sense of purpose, focus, discipline and tenacity. A leader who can provide clarity of vision, intelligence and analytical prowess to the job, whilst being genuine, practical and empathetic to the needs of the people.

In the world of brands, The AA breakdown service displays similar characteristics to what the nation wants as their ideal leader. Reliable, competent, responsive, warm with Sage like expertise – you’re in safe hands with the UK’s number one breakdown provider. The brand’s identity is built around the idea of rescuing the nation in times of need (Hero), fixing the problem and getting us moving again. Their “You Got a Friend” TV campaign uses real employees, reinforcing their Regular Guy and Nurturer qualities.

So how do Brown, Cameron and Clegg fare by comparison to the ideal?

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Brand Brown is a clear Ruler, whose defining characteristics include being organized, authoritative, confident and responsible. Rulers are highly tuned into their immediate worlds, and also plan and strategize to keep a long-range view. Also at play to similar levels, for Brown, are the characteristics of Sage, Hero and Nurturer. Possessing political prowess steeped in cabinet experience (Sage) he has been at the helm through the global financial storm (Hero). His more caring side (Nurturer) is seen most keenly by those who are Labour supporters.

But Brown’s over indexing Ruler characteristics are pushing these other characteristics too far into the background, rendering him furthest away from the voter’s ideal. His firm views could be construed as dogmatic and overbearing, stifling innovation and enterprise. To gain much needed ground, he needs to dial up his Nurturer side to better connect with the man on the street, showing he can listen and be empathetic. We know that Brown has the most ‘experience’ in office, but he must capitalize on the lessons he’s learnt whilst being in power to add weight to his Sage traits, but deliver these in a down to earth Regular Guy way.

In the world of brands, Brown could take a leaf out of Microsoft’s book. Displaying similar characteristics, it’s one of the big technology players whose authoritative reach is global and whose professional expertise is unquestionable. They have managed to temper their overbearing ruler characteristics with the “I’m a PC” campaign which injects a fresh, optimistic and relevant feel to the brand. Escaping the serious stereotype and making them connected to the real world.

Brand Cameron is a well balanced Ruler, Regular Guy with Hero and Nurturer undertones. In contrast with Brown’s authoritarianism, his ruler side emerges through his polished, relentless delivery of the message that above all the country needs things to change. A dynamic speaker with a passion for the outdoor life, and an open door policy on his personal life, Cameron is quick to jettison his tie, roll up his sleeves and portray himself as an ordinary guy, when meeting voters who share none of his privileged background.

However, his propensity to focus on Labour and Brown’s shortcomings rather than offering his own constructive solutions could lead to a public perception of shallowness. And lurking in his Ruler shadow is the drive to be on top, which could lead to a mirage of marketing; a political hall of smoke and mirrors to get the votes. Cameron has the most balanced character profile of the three leaders, but like Brown, needs to draw attention to his Sage qualities by referencing his experience with managing difficult situations, and demonstrating real clarity of vision. Being more concrete in how he talks about notions of ‘change’ could bring a clearer and more authentic sense of purpose, adding more Hero to the mix.

In the world of brands, HSBC displays Ruler, Regular Guy qualities similar to Cameron.  Their ‘world’s local bank’ campaign resonates with authority and control but the use of Michael Gambon’s voice over portrays reassurance, warmth and a connection between ordinary people.  Their sheer global size brings no doubt on their Ruler status but as Regular Guys, they are practical and dependable as well as being real and uncomplicated.

Brand Clegg is a Regular Guy Nurturer, a good neighbour. Relying on common sense, he has a down to earth approachability that makes him feel genuine and inclusive. His Regular Guy Nurturer combination is the closest to our respondent’s ideal leader, but now he needs to focus on his Hero and Sage qualities to meet the mark. Like Cameron, he should relay what he has learned from his past experience and show how he can help the public make sense of the world. Clegg has the potential to be the most effective candidate in translating and filtering complex issues into something more easily understood by the public. But a watch out is the Regular Guy shadow which could still render him a ‘soft touch’. Amplifying his Hero side will demonstrate competence and leadership to reassure the voters that he’s a viable option.

In the world of brands, the successful Jamie Oliver campaigns for Sainsbury’s show distinct Regular Guy Nurturer character traits. He is one of us, the voice of the people. The Nurturer comes through as tough love – standing up to be counted and fighting your corner on the issues that matter.  Sainsbury’s latest campaign champions better taste for our food and demands that the public don’t settle for anything less than real food. Clegg is doing the same, demanding Parliamentary reform and not settling for half measures. He may be dialing up his Hero side just in time.

What do women want?

There is a lot of talk about the importance of the women’s vote. Online sites like Mumsnet are growing to become powerful sources of influence. The survey asked women what characteristics they are looking for in their ideal political brand leader, and more importantly “who’s the man for them?”

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Women have a clear view of their ideal leader. He needs to have the responsible, caring qualities of the Nurturer, coupled with the empathetic, practical traits found in the Regular Guy. A leader who is instinctively sensitive to the needs of women’s busy lives juggling the kids, a successful career, and social life. Straight talking, authentic and reliable, steadfast in their duty to protect or prop-up no matter what, someone who can be counted on. But none of this should be to the detriment of the intelligence and clarity of vision found in the Sage.

How do the political leaders fare against women’s ideal leader? 

Brand Brown is seen by women as a Ruler, displaying domineering and rigid characteristics. This is right at the other end of the scale to the softer side of a Nurturer, Regular Guy that they’re looking for. He’s lacking the empathetic qualities which are essential to women. Brown could look to brands like Pampers for an example of how a serious expert can move to being someone who understands their needs and delivers against them.

Brand Cameron, despite his attempts to be seen as “one of us”, doesn’t deliver succinctly against the Nurturer, Regular Guy qualities that women are wanting.  Instead they see Cameron as an “all rounder” scoring equally across characteristics of a Nurturer, Regular Guy, and Hero and in a negative way for women, a Ruler. To hit the mark, Cameron needs to show substance by proving to women that he can be counted on. In the brand world, Dettol does this by displaying warmth and protection (Nurturer), with the reassurance you’re in safe hands. Their heritage of protecting the nation against germs (Sage) extends to partnerships with Health organisations and schools in addition to the home. Cameron also needs to talk openly to show he understands the diversity of women and their needs today. Dove’s real beauty campaign has harnessed authenticity and transparency in a down-to-earth (Regular Guy) way.

Brand Clegg hits the spot for women with his empathetic, caring nature and real style; in fact he over indexes (against their ideal) on the qualities of a Regular Guy due to his straight talking, open style. But to win over all the women voters, he needs to retain these qualities whilst upping his game to project the intelligence and experience qualities of a Sage. This will gain Clegg respect as an established, yet down to earth and caring option. Qualities found in brands like Hovis whose heritage dates back to 1886.  Clegg still has time to redress the balance and grab the attention of women, especially those who are still undecided.

Global leaders, like global brands, need to earn power by being dynamic and enabling people, rather than simply imposing power from above.. And like any brand, political figures need to be distinct and differentiating to have a hope of victory come May the 6th. When talking politics – that’s where policies come in.

Research Methodology

We conducted an online survey using CharacterLab, among 1349 respondents, a nationally representative sample of the UK population between Friday 16th April and Wednesday 21st April 2010.

The sample was split into 3 equal cells to evaluate the character of the 3 main political leaders. Each cell matching the UK population in terms of gender, age, social class and geography.

The leader evaluation was randomly allocated and we collected over 450 ratings on each leader – 455 on Brown, 452 on Cameron and 442 on Clegg.

The sample was asked to consider the party leaders in relation to the characteristics of twelve archetypes. The results were then statistically analysed to determine the overarching archetype score for each leader.

CharacterLab is an Added Value proprietary digital tool which pinpoints brand personality using archetypal theory to aid creative and communications briefs, backed up with quantitative analysis.

More information on CharacterLab is available at www.characterlab.com

To talk to us about CharacterLab, drop us a line at enquiries@added-value.com

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