Less Archie Bunker, More Jay Pritchett: The GOP's Re-Branding Recipe

We've gone from an All in the Family country to a Modern Family nation. Can Republicans do the same?

When understanding what a brand stands for it's often helpful to talk about them in terms of people. You do this by asking, "If this brand was a person, who would it be?"

For example, in one study many years ago respondents were asked what type of person came to mind when they thought of IBM. What people thought of was an older, reserved, and wealthy man or an older female who dressed nicely and wore pearls. But when asked what type of person they thought of when they pictured Dell, a younger and more approachable couple came to mind for many. This insight helped IBM build a campaign to move its brand to be more approachable and younger. The same brand personality approach can be done using real people or television celebrities. This method can be used for not only business brands but political ones as well.

While the IRS and other scandals have put the Democratic Party on its heels recently, it's clear to many political pundits that the Republican Party still needs to rebrand itself to be successful going forward. This is born out by recent research performed by the College Republican National Committee as well as polls I discussed in my earlier Fast Company article on rebranding the GOP. Bottom line: The GOP has an image problem. This is especially true among the youth. As the CRNC study pointed out, "President Barack Obama won 5 million more votes than Gov. Mitt Romney among voters under the age of 30 in the 2012 election."

Unfortunately for the GOP, its image among many voters (even those favorable of its policy positions) is that it is older, outdated, and out-of-touch with the changes going on in America and politically too extreme and uncompromising. Again, the CRNC study supports this. Asked which words least described the GOP, young respondents gravitated toward "open-minded" (35%), "tolerant" (25%), "caring" (22%), and "cooperative" (21%).

So, to apply the "brand as a person" approach, based on the research above, one could posit that the Republican Party would be currently viewed by many as represented by Archie Bunker. For those of you too young to recall the older father of the TV series All In The Family, Archie was very set in his ways and not at all receptive to how the world was changing around him. This led to constant battles with his liberal son-in-law, Michael.

Now, one can debate if these voter perceptions fairly represent the GOP or not. However, to a certain extent that debate is not relevant. The perceptions exist and as long as they are out there it will be difficult for the GOP to gain young and moderate voters. The brand must aspire to a new personality. In casting around for who might be a TV model to juxtapose against Archie it seemed to me that Jay Pritchett, the patriarch of the hit series Modern Family, was perhaps the right role character.

Why Jay? For those of you who don't watch the show, let me explain. Jay is an older guy who is a successful businessman and well-off. While he's old-school and a man's man it's clear he's learned a lot about life and genuinely cares about the people in his family. And his family is, well, a "modern family." While it doesn't represent every group in the U.S. it is more reflective of the demographic changes happening in America today. Jay's got a daughter who is married with kids but also has a gay son who is in a relationship and raising an adopted Asian daughter. Jay has remarried to a young Latina and is the step-dad to her Hispanic son. Admittedly Jay is not a perfect fit from a GOP brand standpoint (no existing TV character could be) but for the most part the character is a good model for the GOP to aim at.

You may ask, "If Jay is an older white guy (like Archie) how does that square with making the GOP younger and more diverse?" Good question. A brand must change to stay with the times but it still needs to reflect reality...and the reality is that the GOP, while aspiring over time to be younger and more diverse, is still more heavily older, white, and male. It still will be in 2016.

The key difference between Archie and Jay is that while Jay remains true to who he is, he also adapts to the how the world is transforming around him. He may not understand it all, he may not always approve of it, yet in the end he deals with it and shows he cares about everyone in his family.

While this may sound a little mushy to you, consider this. In a CNN presidential election exit poll of four questions, Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama on three out of four of them. Romney won on "vision for the future," "shares my values," and "strong leader." Yet he still lost the election. The question Romney lost? It was "Who cares about people?" Obama won that one 81% to 19%.

So for those that are working on the GOP brand that's my recipe; less Archie, more Jay. Of course, this is not all that needs to be done. As I mentioned in my earlier article, other fundamental changes need to be made, such as determining what the brand stands for, recruiting candidates and developing policies that meet that promise, creating a new logo and tagline, and deploying cause marketing. But having a more attractive Republican brand personality is one more essential part of making the GOP competitive again going forward.

[Image Courtesy of ABC]

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