Brand Names for Political Agendas

Many of you I am sure do not get to , or wish to, read rural focused newspaper The Weekly Times. So I am assuming
that most of you would not have seen a great little article by Leslie White last week where he explored the need for
‘brand names’ for political reform agendas. The article suggests (and I agree) that one of the major stumbling blocks
for the Government selling its carbon plan is that it does not have a name.

As with most things in life, leave a void and others will fill it in. And in terms of filling it in, opposition leader Tony Abbott is a master at doing it, with just the right number of words for todays media grabs. So what better name for
an opposition party than the word ‘tax’.  Mr Abbott has effectively branded the carbon plan the ‘carbon tax’ simply because the Government provided no other easy handle for media to reference it. Abbott was also acknowledged for influencing language to his advantage. He’s changed the dialogue around refugee policy to include the use of words ‘border protection’, which infers Australia is being invaded. He also calls the shadow minister for Finance the ‘minster for finance and debt reduction’, implying Australia has debt a management issue with the current Government.

It is unfortunate that much of the political landscape is being shaped by snappy little  sound bite grabs, but that is the reality of selling in an idea. Former Prime Minster John Howard understood the game when his industrial relations reform that reduced worker’s rights was framed in more positive language by calling it ‘WorkChoices’.

It is a great reminder of the classic marketing text written by Ries and Trout, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. They advocate that the right name is important for positioning just about anything, not just products. They
also suggest that in an over communicated environment advertisers should present a simplified message and make
the message consistent with what the consumer already believes, by focusing on the perception of the consumer rather than on the reality of the product. It makes me feel that the opposition is all over a few relevant marketing texts, while
the Government is frozen in a state of hung government anxiety and cautiously swinging in the breeze. They are struggling to frame the debate in a language that appeals to the mental models swirling around in the minds of the average punter, not to mention the business sector and media.

So, given you have an interest in marketing, what would you call a carbon reduction program if you were in Government? The previous Prime Minster Kevin Rudd, ran with Emissions Trading Scheme. Appreciating that the ‘trading’ dimension will not be introduced immediately, a reasonable alternative would be Carbon Exchange, with the exchange element allowing for a relevant narrative around both trading and subsidies, two important future components of the program. The exchange mechanism is both a ‘levy’ for a polluters, and a ‘subsidy’ for the general public who are in some way disproportionately disadvantaged by price increases. It is an ‘Exchange’ designed to drive equitable outcomes, not only for today, but importantly for future generations.

But if you have any other thoughts, exchange them with us we will take them up with the Prime Minister, next time we hook up.

Peter Singline
Brand Scientist




  1. To true Peter. You should name something to your advantage before someone else names it to your disadvantage. Its is quite amazing that the political game really hasn’t taken full advantage of owning and developing their own parties brands right down to the simple feature of brand product names. Thanks for the post.

  2. You are so right Pete. Looking through a brand positioning lens I’ve felt the current government has poorly positioned much of its critical communication. As the ‘Carbon Tax’ has been grasped by the media and popular debate it has become the name for the legislation and ownership inferred on the Gillard Government whether they like it or not. Seems like they should get you on the phone in future to help them with their brand/policy proposition and positioning.

  3. Hana Guenzl

    Hi Peter,
    I fully agree with you. It’s amazing that no one in the political game picked up on brand name positioning for the ‘Carbon Tax’ . It would have been much easier to sell. Thank you for the post.

  4. Great thought Peter. It is easy to forget how important language is when presenting a new ideas. Politics and policy still has to be marketed as easy and as catchy as everyday consumer goods if it’s going to cleanse it self of elitism. If I may suggest not only a name change but also a strappy catch phrase like, “just exchange it!”?

Post a comment