The Perils of Re-Branding

The Brit Tory leader David Cameron is engaged in a marketing exercise known as re-branding. History shows that doesn’t work, so expect Blair’s New Labour to govern for a while yet.

Cameron’s analysis seems to be based on focus grouping showing that Tories are regarded as “toxic” by Brit voters – the party of “sleaze” (corruption), tax cutting, nationalism and libertarianism.

But focus groups are good at picking up moods, and poor at detecting their underlying causes. So it’s quite likely the people surveyed just don’t like the sleaze part, while supporting core Tory values – low taxes, national independence, strong defense etc. Indeed the comments section in conservative Brit newspapers show many hold those values.

But Cameron has dumped those folks. He won’t commit to cut Brit taxes (now more than Germany’s), he backs the EU (widely hated in the UK), he doesn’t support grammar schools, and has embraced the Global Warming scam.

So he’s committed himself to picking up another voter base.

Retailers often try this, always fail, then after much anguish revert to their original customer base. Brit examples are Bhs and M&S; Americans are The Gap and Nordstom.

The retail re-brander is always a new CEO who goes after a new customer base because the existing one is shrinking or competition for it is fierce.

But moving base is tough, since retailers must focus obsessively on their target customers – good buyers (the core of any retailer) can give you a thumbnail description of each of their top customer types. For example a fashion retailer might target “women aged 25-30, with kids, married, working part time, household income £X”. They’ll know what customers in this group buy, why they buy, how much they spend, what they aspire to.

So when the CEO decides to move base, the entire organization has to replace its deep customer knowledge and that can take years. And while that’s going on, sales tank.

That’s how this happened:

New Coke was the unofficial name of the sweeter formulation introduced in 1985 by The Coca-Cola Company to replace its flagship soft drink, Coca-Cola or Coke.

Public reaction to the change was devastating, and the new cola quickly entered the pantheon of major marketing flops. The subsequent reintroduction of Coke’s original formula led to a significant gain in sales.

David Cameron is attempting a New Coke, and it won’t work, so look for Brits to elect New Labor until the Tory Party gets itself a leader who respects its base.

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2 Responses to The Perils of Re-Branding

  1. fifthdecade says:

    Your argument has a major flaw – members of the Conservative party are getting older (average age apparently is over retirement age now), less politically active day to day, and are slowly dying off. Cameron has no choice other than to appeal to a younger audience, and can only do this using those subjects and ideas they are most interested in.

    As for rebranding not working, how else was New Labour created?

  2. fifthdecade

    The “base getting older” theory has caused the biggest disasters! – Coke, M&S, Nordstrom. All decided to appeal to a younger set, and all ended up reverting to base (and replacing the CEO).

    Traditional Tory values don’t only appeal to geriatrics. Anyone with a job, family and mortgage is going to worry about taxation, crime, education, health care, and national security.

    Your statistic concerns members of the Tory Party (not voters), and – because they have the time – retirees tend to dominate. And of course those that object to Cameron will get less active pronto!

    New Labour won because of the electoral cycle – the Tories had been in power almost 20 years.

    If the Tories look after their base, they’ll get the same result – witness the resurgence of the Canadian conservatives (who stuck to theirs).

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