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The Labour Brand Isn't Broken - But It Must Battle to Be More Relevant

13/01/2016 13:32 | Updated 13 January 2017

Politics and brands have always made uneasy bed-fellows. Politicians often seem unsophisticated at brand management because branding smacks to them of superficial appeal not ideological conviction.

This is a shame because the brand idea offers a powerful way of evaluating political performance and potential. And there is no more pressing party to view through the brand lens than Labour.

A brand is nothing more or less than all the associations and ideas that people have in their minds about something. Rich and real brands have very deep and enduring associations, held by many people. And contrary to popular belief the Labour brand is actually phenomenally strong. Few organisations in Britain come close to holding the amount of mental real estate that Labour has.

In fact, in British politics only Labour and Conservative can be considered real brands, the others are merely parties about which we know a little but have few enduring beliefs. The SNP is not a brand, Ukip is not a brand and bless them neither are the Liberal Democrats.

It's arrant nonsense to think that the Labour brand is broken. But it is clearly not in the rudest of health and Labour's battle must be to make its brand far more relevant. After all the brand landscape is littered with nostalgia brands that we all love but haven't bought in ages.

Right now, highly successful brands have four powerful ingredients; purpose, authenticity, performance and energy. Ingredients they have in spades and ingredients that taken together define a brand's relevance.

Labour has a strength of purpose that most commercial brands would kill for. Its purpose to champion the health of society and build trust between people to foster collective growth was made for our age. Our's is an era of collaboration and community, of sharing and collective bargaining. But Labour needs to understand what these ideas mean today and mean for our startups as well as our public sector workers.

Labour has bucket loads of authenticity. Indeed, in many ways the current leadership is adding a welcome top-up. Authenticity is driven by the values and principles that you stick to when the going gets tough. And without doubt most decent British people share a belief in the common good rather than narrow self-interest.

But brands don't succeed on purpose and values alone. And neither do political parties. People want to know that the product they buy or the party they support is actually going work. And that's where the Labour brand has the most to do. It has to convince people that it will work for the economy, for society and for our wider culture and identity. And critically, Labour has show its the party of 'me' not just 'we'. Me, my family, my community and my country.

And finally there is a magic ingredient in all stories of brand success, energy. Energy is what great brands have when people feel they are optimistic, forward looking, confident and popular. Energy is not just about the zeal of grassroots activists it's about the sense that people like me buy this brand or support this party.

The Labour brand is not broken, far from it. But to win it must be more relevant to contemporary Britain as architects of our future not simply protection against a Tory party run riot. And like any commercial brand this means a better articulated purpose, reinterpreting timeless values for today, proof that the product performs and relentless energy and optimism.

It's just in this case, there is a country at stake not just a business.

Richard Huntingdon is chief strategy officer at Saatchi and Saatchi