Any good brand communicator recognises the symptoms of a brand in trouble. Public engagement slumps; goodwill turns to indifference and then outright hostility, rivals step into the fold.
The only way to survive is to aggressively re-invent a brand. And managers have one chance to prove they have it in them to make that re-invention happen, or they are first to be shown the door. The Prime Minister shows no signs of recognising these lessons when it comes to his continued stewardship of the Parliamentary brand, and the Labour Party in Government brand that is so closely linked to it.
But even Prime Minister’s can learn. So Gordon, here are five steps, learnt from the world of brand marketing, that you need to follow if you are going to have any chance of saving the Labour Parliamentary brand, and your role as its leader.
1. Only good products are worth saving. Bad products should be ruthlessly culled.
In your case PM, your good products are the few MPs who have steadfastly avoided feathering their nests with luxuries. But at the moment the many lemons in your product line are standing right at the front of the store shelves and they are the only things anyone can see.
It is not enough to suspend your Morley or Moran product lines for a short while. They need to be dramatically axed if the public is going to even notice that you are changing your offer. Old friendships don’t cut the mustard when it comes to deserving to be saved. In fact, axing some of those that have been seen to be closest to your heart may be the only way to show that you are really serious about killing the product-rot.
2. You need new lines that grab attention
The iPod reinvented Apple. The 500 has transformed Fiat. Gordon, your products are people and you need some new ones. You need candidates who people want to support with the enthusiasm that saw thousands line up all night for the latest iPhone. That means looking outside just the talent pool in the Labour Party. It means attracting some of the brightest and the best from across public life and making them the Labour candidates for tomorrow.
3. Your product face needs to change
At the moment Gordon, your product face couldn’t be more tired and unappealing. Speaker Martin is seen as a Labour man through and through. And for better or worse (and let’s face it, it’s pretty much all worse) he represents you and your Government’s stewardship of British democracy. He needs to go, today.
And you need a new face who isn’t contaminated. Convince Vernon Bognador to stand in a speedy by-election in Glasgow North-East and provide Parliament with a completely new leader, unafraid to challenge, and able to speak for public and Parliament together.
4. Move quickly
Move quickly, faster than the public expect and make your new approach and products the new story. There’s no reason that you can’t have cleared out your own bad eggs by June, installed a new Speaker by the same time and suddenly have the freshest line-up in town.
5. Outflank your rivals, and you can save yourself
And then for step five.
Having followed steps one to four you’ll be ready to outflank a Conservative Party that will suddenly seem like a party that only cares about the moat-owning classes.
So call a General Election. But also commit to stand down within 12 months of winning enough time to see through these reforms and manage us back out of recession.
Not only can you save the Labour brand, but you change from being out-of-touch to being a magnanimous leader who puts the health of democracy above his own interest.
Does anyone believe Gordon will follow this five-step plan?
Probably not if Gordon’s record of caution is anything to go by. But if he doesn’t, we may stand on the cusp of one of those seminal changes in politics; where long-established parties suddenly die and new forces (good or bad) come to the fore.
For the sake of the Labour Party’s future, Gordon Brown would be well advised to learn the lessons of the brands that have survived and those that were allowed to die.