I'd like to enter this conversation from a slightly different perspective than we've addressed in this debate so far. But you've already read the conclusion in the diary's title: there's no way we (Democrats) can post substantial gains at the ballot box next year without that unified message.
Why? Because the laws of marketing and branding won't allow it.
That may be an opinion, but it's a well-educated one. This is my career, my business, my passion.
Your senior-level lesson in consumer behavior is below the fold.
The continued fall, scandals, indictments and public disapproval of the Republican Party has been a pleasant surprised to Democratic leaders, but one they were irresponsibly unprepared for. We were caught flat-footed.
So, 12 months ago, our leaders assumed that they had 3 years to strengthen the party's "brand" before the bulk of '08 activity began. In actuality, they had only one year to do that. And that year is up.
For those of you unfamiliar with branding and brand architecture...simply replace the word "brand" with the word "promise," and you have a working understanding.
Branding doesn't concern itself very much with the actual PRODUCT (in this case, the Democratic Party and the people who represent it). Branding is much more concerned with the OUTCOME of the product, i.e., what the product is meant to DO for the consumer. In the last 7 years, Nike has rarely shown you a shoe on a TV commercial. That's because Nike isn't really selling shoes. They're selling the outcome: victory, performance, ego, sweat, athleticism, sex - all the things the shoes are meant to do for you. Nike, like every other premiere brand we consume, sells emotion. It's "promise" isn't a great pair of shoes.
It's the same reason that Coke beats Pepsi, Budweiser beats Miller, McDonald's beats Wendy's, and why Republicans beat Democrats - not because the product is better, but because the branding is better.
Brand "architecture" - the extent to which your "promise" permeates each and every aspect of your operation - relies on one attribute over any other: consistency in the message.
The Republican brand (as it relates to the electorate's #1 issue, the war) has been consistent and unwavering: strength, safety, cavalier, heroism. The Democratic brand as it relates to the same issue has been undefined, unprepared, wavering, unclear, inconsistent and confusing. And the public won't buy that.
Rest assured, the act of voting is not at all unlike a retail transaction. We compare, we buy, and we look forward to the outcome of our "purchase."
And even though polls show a public distrust for the Republican brand, consumers won't SWITCH brands unless they're convinced the alternative will be better. In other words, when push comes to shove, it's still easier to stick with the evil you know then risk the outcome of the evil you don't know.
The Republican brand may suffer greater setbacks in '06. Rove may be indicted. Libby may be convicted. A terrorist attack could take place on American soil. Hundreds more troops could be killed in Iraq. And guess what? None of that will help the left.
You know as well as I do that the administration's current talk about withdrawing troops is motivated by one thing and one thing only: winning 2006. As a diarist rightly pointed out yesterday, the sheer image of troops getting off airplanes, stepping on American soil, hugging their loved ones and kissing the ground will be more than enough for consumers to forgive whatever doubts they had about the Republican brand. And it will happen, folks. Those troops will come home, in large numbers, right before next year's elections. Guaranteed.
Those of you who assume that either A) bad numbers for Republicans automatically translate to good numbers for Democrats, or B) the message we communicate in relation to the nation's #1 issue isn't a vital element of the party's brand, or C) voters will embrace an ill-conceived brand, are sorely and dangerously mistaken.
Without a unified party, a consistent brand, or a coherent message, we're not even giving Joe and Jane Voter an alternative that they can justify. If anything, we're giving them a negative brand message that, carried out too much longer, will actually do us harm come November.
Hope isn't completely lost. It takes 9-12 months to penetrate a brand message into the American psyche. If the Democratic Party comes to its senses now, we still have an opportunity to make hay.
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