Amid disruption, political parties fight for relevance, control


Both at home and abroad, today’s political parties face new challenges: new entrants with disruptive models, a flattened value chain, and more disparate voter needs. To address these factors, political parties must create brands with relevance in mind. This aim requires a greater focus on strategic planning, more effective partnerships, and the capacity to deliver more value to stakeholders.


After the French presidential election, Julia Amalia Heyer, Paris correspondent for Spiegel wrote, “Never before in the six-decade history of the Fifth Republic have French voters so thoroughly rejected establishment parties.”

In the United States, Gabriel Debenedetti, political reporter for POLITICO writes “The [Democrat’s] brand is only part of the problem–the party’s central infrastructure itself is in need of an overhaul.”

At its core, brands articulate a promise an organization makes to its stakeholders, employees, and customers. Brands include two basic parts — identity and reputation. While organizations manage their identities, reputations exist and operate far outside their control. For brands, reputation increasingly outweighs identity as fragmentation continues to reshape both socioeconomic and media landscapes.

The growing imbalance between identity and reputation can disorient even the most established brands. Only brands that relinquish the need for control can successfully transform and emerge as relevant, responsive players.

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, more Americans currently view the Democratic Party negatively than positive. Reviving a positive reputation will require Democrats to first earn back trust and credibility among voters. And this task requires Democrats demonstrate a willingness to listen and learn.

As the Democratic Party contends its future, leaders must embrace their decreased control over their brand. More importantly, political parties as brands should focus on what voters actually want and need. They should take to heart former President Barack Obama’s advice to any young person looking to get into politics, “Worry less about what you want to be and more about what you want to do.”



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