What do our politicians really stand for?

Weber Shandwick’s colleagues at McCann Enterprise delve into the psychology behind political brands.

Politicians are reluctant to have their mandate ascribed to anything but their carefully thought-through policies.  But could it be we are more driven by subconscious impulses than rational reflection?  Like who do I trust? Who do I want making decisions about events and issues that aren’t even on the radar yet? Whose analysis best matches my experience? Whose vision speaks to my hopes and fears? Who do I identify with?

These questions are familiar to those of us who create and manage brands. A brand isn’t just a promise, it’s who’s making the promise. And one of the most engaging and useful tools you can use to define a ‘who’ brand is, draws from Jung’s theory of archetypes.

Jung argued that archetypes are hard-wired into human culture; they’re conceptual tools, which help all of us understand characters and stories. Whether we’re aware of them or not, archetypes help us intuit the difference between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and Mercedes and Volkswagen.

Archetype wheel

At McCann Enterprise we use Jung’s archetype theory as a tool to help brand owners understand their identity and how they should behave in order to clearly signal their beliefs and values, and indeed create preference. Thus, we expect Jeep to encourage customers to seek new experiences – they’re an Explorer – while we look to The Lynx Effect to make beautiful women fall at men’s feet, like magic.

The 2015 general election will be as much a battle of characters as a clash of ideologies. So perhaps archetypes can help us understand the characters of the political brands vying for our votes this May.

One of the central tensions political parties face is how they deal with the Idealist archetype. Idealists are brands like Disney, Innocent and Coke. They have a vision of a better world and tend to act on strong principles to bring it about. People become politicians either to change things or to preserve them. Both of these are forms of Idealism. The Left’s idea of social progress is an ideal as is the Right’s notion of laissez-faire, the SNP’s dream of an independent Scotland and UKIP’s desire to be free of the EU.

The Idealist sells a vision which compels people to join a party, knock on doors, donate money and stuff envelopes. But Idealists don’t like to compromise. You wouldn’t host ten years of Labour coffee mornings if you weren’t that bothered about workers’ rights.

Psychologists often argue that we serve two archetypes. The first is about belonging to a herd and signalling what we do. The second, more defining archetype is about signalling our differentiating personality or identity.

And so, if the Idealist archetype is the category generic of politics, we need to understand the differentiating archetype that truly defines each of the parties.

In this series of articles we will discover that British politics is a battle between different archetypes and explore how and why each of the parties use their archetype as well as any inconsistencies that reflect any inner conflict or confusion.

We hope you’ll join us to see why politics is about personalities as much as it is policies.