The Mis-branding of the Healthcare Debate

I am not heavily into politics.

But, like the rest of America, I couldn’t help watching the whole health care debate and vote this weekend.

At least casually, from the treadmill at my gym/tennis club.

And I overheard some interesting conversations among the members there.

Some of the dynamics I observed seem relevant to me as a more general lesson in good vs. bad branding…

After all, branding is the communication of a core promise and hopefully the building of a long term relationship. By this measure, I think the whole health care debate was poorly branded.

Two key observations:

1) No one I overheard discussing the issue could figure out exactly what was at stake for them personally. The only two specifics were no federally funded abortions and some vague notion that children living at home would be entitled to be covered longer (until age 26 I think).

One guy at my tennis/health club said he actually called his local government representative’s office and asked what it would mean for someone like him (a semi-retired senior citizen). He said the person on the phone didn’t know and he hung up more confused than ever.

So while the Democrats may have won the war, I think they lost an opportunity to use this debate to strengthen their brand as one that is really connected to the people and makes things clear and personally relevant for them.

2) On the other side of the aisle, I could tell that the Republicans were AGAINST the bill. But I could never tell what they stood FOR. (Full disclosure, I tend to vote Democratic, but really that’s a bit besides the point). What I am remarking on was an absence of alternative value proposition.

They came off, to me, as cranky naysayers and not a solutions-oriented brand.

So I think they missed their opportunity to communicate something new, better, different etc.

If these were product marketers where the consumer’s got to really vote with their wallets, I think both sides would come up short.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

How well do you think this issue was branded?

3 thoughts on “The Mis-branding of the Healthcare Debate

  1. Love the relevant subjects Julie. Keep ’em coming!

    To me the lack of “branding” within either party points only to the fact that most politicians would never completely want to be labeled over any single ideology or action. There’s a great line in the 1990 movie, Hunt for Red October in which a top presidential adviser says…”I’m a politician which means I’m a cheat and a liar, and when I’m not kissing babies I’m stealing their lollipops. But it also means I keep my options open”. LOL.
    Unlike corporations or consumer products that need that one major differentiator, it seems politicians need to have a little more “flexibility” in their branding.

    In all seriousness, I agree that neither party really did a good job communicating to that people what this whole thing means. I’m a pretty well informed person but I still can’t find real answers on how this healthcare pool will work or who is even eligible! Hey Democratic Party! Need a website?

  2. @Lee Thanks for the comment (and nice touch with the pitch at the end). You may be right, that politicians by nature keep thier options open, but I can’t help feeling its such a missed opportunity. It feels like politics as usual, instead of a real substantive debate.

  3. Such a great observation– I thought the exact same thing when I was watching the debate. I think there are lots of opportunities that the government misses to properly brand and communicate its policies. This was also certainly the case with the stimulus package. When I was in business school, the school of government was located adjacent, but never the twain did meet. Perhaps there might be some lessons the two could learn from each other. Any branding experts want to run for office? Hmmm…how do we feel about Meg Whitman?

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