3 Lessons We Can Learn From The Wives Of Politicians
Party conference season is over and, in addition to the speculation and analysis about the actual content of the speeches, there has also been the usual excitement around the outfits sported by the party leaders’ wives.
These women, photographed smiling and often hand-in-hand with their respective husbands, pull the whole thing together. They complete the image.
We no longer elect politicians on their mandates or ideology. We elect them on their brand.
The media focus on the outfit choices made by Samantha Cameron, Miriam Clegg and Justine Miliband. These women are not fashion icons: they are not revered in the same way as Kate Middleton or Michelle Obama.
But important events on the political calendar such as the annual conferences draws a crowd. We’re eager to know what they’re wearing and how much it cost. Why? Because we want to know if we can relate to these women.
What can we learn about brand image from SamCam and the other political WAGs?
#1 Brand consistency.
Politicians are desperate to market themselves to voters as “just like us.” The population in general is sceptical of an elected government grown almost exclusively at Eton and Oxbridge.
But if their family life is perceived as “normal” (comfortably middle class), these politicians can hope to relate to voters.
Samantha Cameron drew criticism in 2010 when she wore a £750 Paul Smith dress to the Conservative Party Conference. Completely out of reach of “ordinary” working people, the dress was seen as a bad PR move.
Since then, Cameron has been careful to stick to high end high street brands such as LK Bennett and Jigsaw, also favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge. She opted for a £42 dress from online retailer Asos for the 2013 conference.
Mrs. Cameron needs to maintain brand consistency with hug-a-hoodie, roll-up-your-shirt-sleeves husband, David’s message. It’s all about being “normal,” fitting in.
In marketing we need to consider what our message is. What are our values and why will our customers respond to this? We need to then maintain consistency in all our marketing campaigns so as not to cause confusion.
#2 Brand image.
Closely related to brand consistency is the concept of brand image. Politicians’ wives contribute to their husbands’ image.
Happy families; wholesome values; upright morals.
This is all represented in the choice of dress and a swish of the hair. It is important for politicians’ wives to be just like us… but more what we aspire to be.
Miriam Clegg was awarded an entire article in the Daily Mail Online for her outfit choice when she and husband Nick paid a visit to Lairdlands Primary School near Glasgow.
Noting Mrs. Clegg’s day job as a high-powered City lawyer, the Mail remarked that Miriam looked “surprisingly glamorous…no doubt to the despair of regular mums everywhere.”
By appearing super-glamorous in a way that the Mail clearly considers out of reach of “regular mums,” Clegg exudes calm, controlled sophistication. This all adds to the Cleggs’ brand image, which in turn adds to that of the Liberal Democrats.
#3 “More than a dress.”
Justine Miliband commented before the Labour Party Conference that she would be “more than a dress.”
The media attention accorded to these women for the way they look and what they wear is shallow. You might question whether a man in their position would receive the same sort of treatment.
But it’s all about cultivating a brand. Justine knows that she is more than a dress. She cements husband Ed’s image as a family man with “normal,” middle class aspirations, to which most of the nation (we assume) aspire. Or are living.
They emulate what we want to see. This is the key point. In marketing we have to cultivate a brand that gives people what they want to see.
What do you think?
Image Credit: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson. This image is a work of an employee of the Executive Office of the President of the United States. The image is in the public domain.