Interactivity and Branding: Public Political Communication as a Marketing Tool
This source preferred by Darren Lilleker
Authors: Lilleker, D. and Jackson, N.
Start date: 29 March 2010
Publisher: Journal of Political Marketing
Effective communication is essential for brands to gain awareness, interest and loyalty from their consumers; the same is as true for politics as for any manufacturer or service provider. The challenge for political parties and candidates seeking support or election is finding the means to transmit their messages to an increasingly hard to reach audience. The consumer within a political context may avoid hard news or broadcast political debate, discard any direct mail received and, when receiving glimpses of political communication, simple reject any political messages as spin and propaganda. In order that brand values are accepted and understood and accepted effective, unmediated communication is crucial and increasingly political communication strategists are turning to the Internet which can not only enable the reaching of a wider audience but can also complement and augment the brand character.
As new technologies are adopted, new modes of communication are also introduced. While a website can act as a shop front from which parties or candidates can advertise their policies and personnel, the style of the site (design, language and features) can act as metaphors for the professionalism and style of representation offered. To appear modern parties are increasingly adopting Web 2.0 tools, platforms and features. These all permit, to differing degrees, users to interact with parties and candidates and have conversations across online platforms. This interactivity can, if used strategically, be used as a tool for branding a party or candidate given that the uses of such tools can be metaphors for openness, accessibility and the representational character that may be provided post election. We explore this issue drawing on original empirical data gathered through analyses of online activities during the French and US presidential contests of 2007 and 2008 and of UK parties and MPs during 2008 and 2009. Through a process of creating narratives for each of the brands analysed, based upon a content and discourse analysis of the websites and other online presences, we identify what characteristics the online shop front is designed to project. These narratives, cumulatively, suggest that the online environment is becoming a key communicational tool for those who seek election, and potentially a key source of information for the voter; thus an important location to place strategic branded information. However it appears that interactivity is better suited to the activities of candidates, nationally or locally, due to the individualistic nature of conversational interactivity. Interactivity can thus have a significant role to play within a presidential contest where the individual is seeking office, but when representatives attempt to construct their individual brand it can also challenge traditional hierarchies within party based parliamentary systems such as the UK.
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Authors: Lilleker, D.G.
Journal: Journal of Political Marketing
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Online platforms are increasingly used as a means to present brand characteristics to key target groups. Within a political context, websites can act as a shop front from which parties or candidates can advertise their policies and personnel. The increasing use of more interactive forms of communication informs visitors about the overall brand character of the host. This article explores the impact on branding of interactivity by analyzing the online activities undertaken by UK parties and their members elected to the House of Commons during the period 2007 to 2010. Through a process of creating narratives for each of the brands analyzed, based upon a content analysis of the websites and other online presences, this article identifies what characteristics the online shop front is designed to project. This article finds overall that interactivity within online environments is becoming one aspect of the branding of parties, though this is in limited forms and linked more to a marketing communication strategy than seeking to involve or understand site visitors. Members of Parliament who use social networking sites or weblogs, in contrast, have a developed i-branding strategy that enables them to present a strongly interactive brand personality to visitors to their online presences, offering impressions of them as accessible and effective representatives.