Did Branding Decide the BC Election?

Posted by on May 17, 2013

There seems to be much puzzlement about how the NDP lost the election on May 14 when the polls over the past year suggested it would be a rout in the other direction. But I wonder how much brand confusion has to do with it.

The NDP has tried over the last few campaigns to redefine itself as more “business friendly”. That was the thrust of Carol James’s last term, and it was certainly part of Dix’s plan during the past year or so.

But that isn’t the NDP’s “brand”. They’re not known by their core supporters as the “business friendly” socialist party. Many dyed-in-the-wool NDPers, brought up “wearing red diapers”, are anti-rich and anti-business socialists to whom “the man” is the enemy. (Yes, I’m exaggerating for effect.)

Imagine their confusion over the past several years while first James and then Dix struggled to rebrand the NDP as . . . as what? And that may be the crux of the problem. Did they destroy the NDP’s traditional brand without creating an equally strong brand to replace it? I’d say yes.

The Party wasn’t trusted by the centre-left, and wasn’t familiar to its traditional left-leaning core constituency. It was lost, wandering around in the unfamiliar territory near the political centre. And in its zeal to capture the centre, it had ceded the environmental left to the Green Party.

The NDP is no longer a coalition of environmentalists, labour and social democrats. The change has weakened its roots among labour and traditional socialists, but has failed to get traction in the political centre. Dix’s flip-flop on the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion “proved” to many in the loosely defined left-centre of the electorate that he was never serious about the party’s repositioning, while the past several years of rebranding probably sapped some of the zeal formerly displayed by its traditional supporters.

And that’s my theory for this morning.