Saving a Brand: Prune the (Republican) Tree.

What happens when a venerable brand recognizes that it is repelling, rather than attracting its target markets? And what should that brand do as it watches its market share erode year after year even after resorting to all sorts of tricks to maintain some semblance of market dominance?

The answers aren’t always pretty. And some are downright painful. The Republican Party brand finds itself in just such a situation. 

Last week, Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus released a rather candid report that dissected just how it is the GOP lost the last couple of presidential elections – and steps that could be taken to reverse the trend. It spoke about how the party was perceived as a bunch of old white guys whose only interest is advancing the cause of big business.

It also spoke to the many ways in which the party managed to alienate whole segments of the electorate, including voters under 30, women, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, single parents, and gays and lesbians. Since all those segments add up to well over half the voting age population, it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that the party needs a new approach.

While the report suggests remedies for reversing the party’s electoral problems, including being less angry, less white and less male, it didn’t tackle the core issue. Whatever the party’s leadership may say about moderating stands on positions that tend to alienate more than half the electorate, its core and most passionate audience has absolutely no interest in moderating anything.

Think of them as branches on a tree: the Tea Party Branch; the Evangelical Branch; the Libertarian Branch. Each sucks energy and vitality from the main trunk. Each, in its own way, is diseased and stopped producing anything like fruit a long time ago. While any one of these branches might not have much impact on the whole, the combination of all three threatens to kill the entire tree.

For instance, these activist branches are unabashedly, frothing-at-the-mouth against:

  • Immigration reform
  • Reproductive rights for women
  • Equal rights for gays and lesbians
  • Federal student loans and even evidence-based learning in the classroom
  • Affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act

The average American, conversely, is generally for some form of all those things. Moreover, the constant demonizing of the people for whom these issues matter most also repels the vast majority of Americans.

So what does a brand do when it knows it must evolve or die, but must alienate its core in order to do so?

It’s a good question. But here’s one thing I know: as long as angry white people stand up under the Republican standard and rail against their fellow Americans, while arguing for policies a majority of people are against, it’s a good bet the brand can’t and won’t evolve. 

If the party wants to start winning elections, it’s going to have to find a way to adopt policy positions more in line with where the country is at today. But it must also find spokespeople for those policies, in every corner of the country, who look and sound more like what America looks and sounds like today. 

It’s akin to pruning a tree of branches that are impeding its overall health and future growth. There’s short-term pain – the tree may not look like it once did – but in the long term the tree will continue to grow, thrive and bear fruit.

As long as the Republican brand aligns itself with a noisy core that relish alienating anyone not like them, the GOP can look forward to a slow decline into oblivion.

FIVE THôT columnist DEREK GORDON is a marketing and sales exec with more than 20 years success in integrated marketing and sales strategy and management. He is the Chief Marketing and Sales Officer for Pathbrite.

Shearers and Gloves image via Shutterstock

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