“Now is not the time to bribe the electorate.”
So said a senior ConservativeÂ in The Globe and Mail after the Federal Government issued its budget yesterday. “We would have undermined our brand. People know they get what they pay for and we’re what they elected.”
Hallelujah, says I. Set aside my personal views on why governments shouldn’t be spending tax dollars foolishly, because I was just as impressed the senior Conservative seems to understand what a brand is. I wish more people did.
Brands are nine-tenths about building credibility in a reputation. Consumers (voters) need to trust what they’re getting. Knowing that the Tories are already fighting an uphill battle on the trust issue, they would have decimated their credibility if they had promised expensive spending projects in this budget.
All organizations can learn from this: you need to be consistent in both your actions and your communications to be credible. That principle is at the heart of successful public relations; it takes years to win something so precious as a good reputation, but you can lose it in a heartbeat.
Just look at the example of the Tories’ former nemesis Paul Martin. He was the man who saved the country’s finances. For years as Finance Minister, Martin was the one seen to be making the tough decisions. He was single-minded in his campaign to fight deficits and debt. As soon as he became Liberal leader, it was as if he tossed all of that stuff out like it was a bad penny. Â
Instead, Martin began spending as many pennies and nickels and dimes as he could on a multitude of weighty, ill-focused programs. Everything was â€œfundamentalâ€ to the country. He became a guy who was clearly out to please everyone. Predictably, he and his government quickly lost focus (if they ever had it) and it wasn’t long before the media branded him Mr. Dithers.
He lost his way, abandoned consistency and destroyed an important part of his and his party’s brand. By the looks of it, the Tories learned a few things about what not to do by watching him.