Building a brand is an expensive, and normally a lengthy, process with advertising expenditure and marketing activity spread out over many years. When it comes to politics John Howard is in that traditional marketing category.
The Howard image has been embedded in the Australian psyche by over 30 years in political life and there is as much chance of changing the impression people have of him as there is of convincing Vegemite eaters that Marmite is better.
Every three years or so there is a new burst of pre-election advertising featuring the old fellow but at best it can reinforce existing attitudes towards him, not engender new ones.
When reinforcement is the purpose, it makes sense for a political party to concentrate its advertising in the last few weeks before polling day but for the Labor Party, marketing the Kevin Rudd brand is a different kind of problem.
Here is a young and relatively unknown politician without the two decades of exposure that politicians normally have before becoming party leader. The image of the product is not firmly fixed in the mind of voters. This is a brand that is still to be built.
Hence the very sensible decision of the Labor campaign team to start their spending several months ago with an advertisement showing their new man as a visionary alternative Prime Minister.
The advertisement, showing snapshots of Kevin Rudd’s life and stressing his commitment to reforming the Australian education system, was being shown on Sunday night amid all the clutter of the so-called Commonwealth Government ads being aired to aid the Liberal and National parties. Promising not to throw the fair go out the back door, Mr Rudd promised an Australia that “can go forward with fairness”.
The television commercial will continue to be shown for several weeks yet, alternating with another where Mr Rudd declares his pride in being described as a fiscal conservative.