I’m starting to feel sorry for Ed Miliband. Not only did his campaign to end the sale of cut-price Chocolate Oranges fall a bit flat (because clearly the country has no more pressing concerns at present), but rather more worryingly for Ed, the UK public don’t see him as a future PM.
Just last month, YouGov surveyed people on whether they felt Ed looks and sounds like a future Prime Minister. Those polled were given a set of statements and asked ‘Which of these is closest to your view about Ed Miliband?’ Amongst the options were these: ‘He has the right policies but does not look or sound like a possible Prime Minister’ (27%) and ‘His policies are wrong, and he does not look or sound like a possible Prime Minister’ (43%).
So, if we remove the policy element, that’s 70% of people who don’t think Ed looks or sounds like a possible PM. Clearly ‘Brand Miliband’ needs considerable work.
We are all familiar with ‘Brand Cameron’. It seems that we are constantly bombarded with pictures of ‘Dave’ jogging through various cities with his unlucky copper in tow, or ‘Sam Cam’ attending one charity function or another, immaculately turned out (natch). And photographer Tom Stoddart captured some rather sickeningly perfect images of the Cameron’s at home for the Sunday Times Magazine – Sam looks on lovingly as Dave cooks the dinner, the Cameron family gathers around the breakfast table, Dave hunches over his desk piled with papers…
In short, he’s the posh Etonian chap that’s trying to juggle it all – the family, the job, staying in shape whilst approaching 50… He’s just like everyone else, is Dave.
Whether you believe the image or not, it’s effectively portrayed.
But what do we know about Ed? Answer: very little. Probably one of the most well-known facts is that he pipped his brother to the leadership, but that’s no advantage (unfortunately for Ed, in the same YouGov survey 21% of respondents said David M would make the best Labour leader versus Ed’s 7%). So as a brand, Miliband is still pretty much an unknown quantity.
What Ed needs is to become a proper marketable brand. The best brands allow products, companies and, in certain cases, people to reach a mass audience that associates with them attributes and connotations that create a (hopefully) positive image. And in politics, public perception of a party leader is crucial come election time – and for most parties that is really the brand, as few people really view political manifestos as a party’s biggest selling point.
Ed’s high-profile role in the successful efforts to pressure RBS Chief Executive Stephen Hester into rejecting his bonus undoubtedly was a step in the right direction. But if Labour is going to capitalise on the government’s struggles dealing with the UK’s continued economic troubles and divisions within the Coalition, its leader needs to communicate with the country in a way that resonates with people and create a winning public image. In other words, he needs to build ‘Brand Miliband’ into something the country will buy as Prime Minister.