Has the shine come off the Republican and Democratic brands?



By Mike Gugat

Let me preface this by saying it’s not my intention to be argumentative by trying to tackle this question.  My belief is that we’re ripe for a third party that could create a platform seeking to govern by “country over party,” a slogan championed by ABC’s Matthew Dowd, a former George W. Bush aide. 

In this last election, a lifelong Democrat from New York City, more so aligned with Howard Stern than Howard Dean, beat out a dozen loyal GOP contenders for the Republican nomination. On the left, a socialist and lifelong thorn in the side of the Democratic Party, nearly won the Democratic nomination. 

What gives?

Both candidates ran for something, which has proven more successful than running against something. The Howard Stern Democrat was for building a border wall, restoring lost manufacturing and coal mining jobs, and cutting corporate tax rates to “Make America Great Again.” The self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” was for tuition-free college, single-payer healthcare, and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.  Neither had plans that were validated by serious economists, but the electorate was desperate for change and willing to cast a Hail Mary vote.

Personally, neither brand is speaking to me these days. I’ve decided to register as an independent.  I’m inspired to do so by a letter my Grandfather wrote me when I turned 18, just before voting in my first presidential election.  The retired Rear Admiral said he was a registered Republican (New England Republican, who retired in progressive Santa Cruz), but had voted for Democrats over the years.  The wisdom he imparted in that letter was to put personal values above party, study the candidates and especially the party platforms, and vote for the candidate whose platform best represents your values.  As a progressive, I don’t just want to resist, but want to stand for and with those using their heads to innovate in both the public and private sectors.  I want to be inspired by thought leaders.

I believe ideas will again win the day, especially those that genuinely set out to solve problems, not just profit from them. This brings me back to brands.  Brands – whether in tech, fashion, entertainment, or sports – are also at a crossroads. They’re now expected to be problem solvers or able to relieve societal tension.  As consumers gain greater control over retail, how they divvy up their wallet share will be motivated by more than just price. According to Engage for Good, 33% of consumers buy from brands doing social and/or environmental good.  Seventy-five percent of those born after 1980, who prefer not to be labeled (which I respect), would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company.

It shouldn’t come as news that consumers don’t want to be marketed to, but want to feel a part of the brand’s process.  The same can be said of voters who hunger for ideas that fix, unify, and innovate rather than insult, divide, and regress. These voters are the same consumers expecting more from ALL brands.