Political Brands

You are only as good as your last performance. This applies also to political brands- may these be colors, hand signs taglines, or associations. Candidates and parties who have enjoyed relative success in using prior brands do not need to reinvent the wheel. Meanwhile, those with unsuccessful runs often associate their failures to poor branding. Changing of brands can also be attributed to a change in brain trust of candidates and/or parties and/or a shift in strategy based on past performance.

Brands, in essence, often attempt to "define candidates, policies, or even the state of one nation" to bring people together based on a common cause, belief, or idea. The better the branding, the better chances of winning. In the last two Presidential elections, branding was instrumental in the victories of President Duterte and President Aquino.

The 2010 campaign of the late President Noynoy Aquino perfectly used the slogan "Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap" to distinguish their political brand from the Arroyo administration. The yellow ribbon and the Laban sign were symbolic gestures which resonated among voters, generating mass support from people's organizations and civil society groups. PNoy enjoyed a 16% winning margin against closest competitor Former President Joseph Estrada. Despite the moderately high political capital of PNoy during the tail end of his term, the success of his brand in 2010 did not carry over to the campaign of former Sen. Mar Roxas in 2016. The brand was perceived to have failed in delivering its promise of ending corruption and reducing poverty.

In 2016, the campaign team of President Rodrigo Duterte used the "Tapang at Malasakit" slogan to banner its campaign, along with the fist gesture which signalled strong leadership. These were influenced by the long stint of President Duterte as Mayor of Davao City which was perceived to have a relatively low crime rate due to his iron hand leadership. As people grew tired of the yellow narrative, ordinary people gravitated to President Duterte and his claimed authenticity attracted support from usually dormant sectors. President Duterte personified the brand of tapang through various statements such as promises of ending illegal drugs within 6 months and jet-skiing to Spratlys/Scarborough to plant the Philippine flag to assert Philippine sovereignty. In the end, President Duterte had a 16% winning margin against Mar Roxas who came in as a far second.

Brands are not the end-all and be-all of campaigns. However, brands help shape the perception of the electorate in terms of the way the country will be governed in the next 6 years. Brands are used to court and woo voters but don't mistake these as factually correct statements.


Beyond brands, the electorate must exercise the discernment to research, study and discern on the plans and programs of government that each candidate will lay down. The policies and programs will have to be reflective of the brand; otherwise, a disconnect goes to show the lack of seriousness by a candidate in fulfilling the promise that the brand speaks of.

About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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