The Mass GOP currently has an 11% share in the marketplace. The question is how to grow that market share.
Successful brands identify what their core message is and build an identity around that message.
As an example I give you Volkswagen from 1995-2005. Before 1995 Volkswagen was considering pulling out of the North American market because they were selling around 50,000 units/year. The “Fahrvergnügen” campaign had failed miserably. The advertising account was put up for review. The agency that won the business (disclosure: I worked on the VW account for all 10 years it was in Boston) hit on a phrase, “On the road of life there are passengers and there are drivers.” Distilled down, and in conjunction with that phrase, came “Drivers wanted.” which became the tagline. Taken together: “On the road of life there are passengers and there are drivers. Drivers wanted.”
It was the core message that defined the Volkswagen brand in America for a decade. Volkswagens were German-engineered vehicles built for people who love to drive. Every piece of brand communication – be it TV, print, outdoor or online – carried that message, “Drivers wanted.” And it worked. Sales increased to around 500,000 units per year by 2002.
We never compared ourselves to our competition. Ever. We only talked about VW and what made a VW special to “drivers”. And VW became relevant in America again.
At the heart of my former agencies process was what we called “Brand Essence”. It was a way of combining all the rational reasons for purchasing the product with the emotional ones. The best Brands make that emotional connection with their customers that reinforces their rational reasons for choosing that product.
The reason I bring this up here is because I’ve long believed that the Republican party has the rational, white-paper approach down cold. Where we fail in growing our brand is in making that emotional connection to the voter. We need, as a state party, to get to our Brand Essence. To treat the Massachusetts Republican Party as a Brand. To start marketing our party as a Brand. To start positioning our party as the solution to what is ailing Massachusetts in a way that connects emotionally with Un-enrolled voters and Conservative Democrats.
And like it or not, the party has to start spending money on (gasp) marketing. I don’t necessarily mean taking out full page ads in the Globe and Herald. I’m talking about creating branded resources for candidates, local RTCs and activists to build our Brand from the ground up. To get serious about a social media strategy. To build an infrastructure that can handle year-round activism. And to start making the case on an emotional level to get voters to “buy” our product. These can’t be the same old candidate mailers that are indistinguishable from one another and only appear every 2 years. They need to be conceptual pieces that make people stop and look at the thing before they chuck them in the recycle bin. Political communications materials don’t have to suck! And if we start thinking of the party as a Brand, and work with the conservative creative people in this state (admittedly there are few of us), they won’t.