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Dan Johnson writes:

It is interesting that in recent weeks VW, one of the world’s biggest brands has been thrown into chaos by scandal, one from which it will recover but it will cost a lot of money and take no small amount of time – it will recover because it has a history of producing good products and so eventually it will be forgiven.

Not all businesses are so fortunate. Who can forget how Gerald Ratner destroyed his jewelry empire with one sentence when he described his own products as ‘crap’.?

The difference between VW and Ratners is that everyone knew that Ratners sold cheap products but they bought them anyway because on the surface they looked OK – there was a veneer of quality.

Once Gerald Ratner confirmed what many people already thought then the perceived value of the products had gone and there was no way back because there was no history of quality – the veneer was gone.

With VW it’s different: they have decades of quality and good will and so their survival is guaranteed, all be it tarnished in the short term.

Building and maintaining a long-term brand strategy is not only beneficial during the good times but is equally or possibly more important in a crisis.

Politics is no different: scandal, political crisis, bad press and appalling behaviour as witnessed recently in PMQs on 14th October, do have a profound short-term effect on how the country views parliament. But in the long-term it’s what the parties stand for and their historical track record that will determine their future success.

Labour reinvented themselves two decades ago and romped into Westminster with a massive majority. This was due in part to the weakness of the Conservatives, but mainly it was Labour presenting themselves as an electable, modern party whilst at the same time relying on their century long track record as a ‘peoples’ party. The trouble was that when the ‘new’ Labour party ran into political difficulty it had moved too far away from its roots and so struggled to communicate with the people.

The Conservatives have been elected using a veneer of political scene changing that flew in the face of what their centuries long persona has been. They have been elected not for their track record but for their current ‘advertising’ campaign. This short-term strategy will ultimately fail as this is not what they have been in the ‘business’ of doing for the last two hundred years.

Labour have taken a huge step back to the party’s core values in electing their new leader, demonstrating that what they have always stood for, is what people ultimately want to buy into.

Politics changes and adapts with the times just as business does, otherwise it becomes irrelevant and archaic, but staying faithful to the ‘brand’ essence that has been built up over decades is vital as it helps give people confidence in what you say and what you offer. By trying to change and adapt too radically from where you started risks confusion and will drive voters and customers away.

The last twenty or thirty years has seen the main political parties changing their ‘shirts’ at will, trying to appeal to and woo the voters. All this has achieved is confusion and apathy amongst the electorate who now find it difficult to determine one party from another and so their votes swing back and forth accordingly.

The Labour party and the Conservatives, like VW, will only succeed in overcoming the issues and pitfalls that they endure by maintaining and pursuing a consistent long-term strategy not by changing to suit the current climate or saying what they think people want to hear.

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