Eamon O’Cuiv and the fiction of the party political brand

TV3’s documentary on the current sorry state of Fianna Fáil last night touched off the question of the party’s brand. Senior figures from the pantheon of FF greats (OK, I’m joking) commented on the worth, heritage, and connotations of the name Fianna Fáil.

Party political brands are deemed by the commentariat to be of much significance to voters, even though there’s no real evidence that this is the case. What’s in a name? Fianna Fáil, meaning warriors of Ireland or warriors of destiny (depending on which authorities you cite) would sound now like the proposed name of  a rugby team franchise, or a thrash metal band from near Mullingar. But that misses the point: parties as brands are ancient by contemporary standards, and new parties stand little chance of passing the test of time and successive elections.

When people like Eamon O’Cuiv say that they have a fierce loyalty to the name and the brand Fianna Fáil, it’s only to be expected, as the name is a teddy bear from their childhood, one they grew up with and turned to when distressed. It’s debatable whether political ‘sophisticates’, including party hacks, actually believe in a political brand name, as distinct from being attached to party colleagues, the pursuit of power, and habit.

This psychographic investment (as called by political scientists) may well mean that party members would hate to change their brands, but only an idiot would imagine that name change actually connotes philosophical change. In this case, party political brands are fictions, unchanging despite overhauls in economics and society –  just a nominal habit to garner goodwill among the party faithful. An imagined community, to invoke Benedict Anderson, rather than a living set of values and merged identities, which party elites hope will absorb voters once every election.

Posted by Ken.

2 Responses to “Eamon O’Cuiv and the fiction of the party political brand”
  1. As I read this I’m struck by two things: how people will invest blood and emotion into history, particularly when they can claim a direct involvement, even if it’s four generations removed. Secondly, this whole dodgy edifice looks like nothing so much as the church. Both are under attack, both are struggling to hold on in a meaningful way, and both have a tough core of die-hards for whom the brand can do no wrong. The bogusness of the reality is that what either organisation espouses is something ethereal (but none the less real and capable of making men go to war) but essentially something that neither church nor state can rightly lay any claim to. Neither nationality on the one hand, nor spirituality on the other, are the preserve of organisations, yet St Peter’s mob and Dev’s gang have managed to entwine themselves – sometimes together – around the notion that they are inseparable. Of course it’s dodgy carry-on, but it’s a powerful instance of brands allying themselves to fiction (what else does any brand actually have?) and convincing lots of starry-eyed consumers to press the Like button.

    • the planners says:

      Hi Nick,

      Wow, I like your range. I totally take your point about the Church, but I’m also intrigued by the extent to which they (and FF) believe in the values that their brand transmits to believers/voters…so, do FF members accept that things need to change, or are they hoping that a bit of cosmetics will do? Quite similar to the Clause 4 debate in UK Labour…John McGuinness acknowledges that differences between FF and FG are now stylistic: how many other FF people believe this? Do they still have the same connotations in their heads for ‘Republican Party’ that they would have had in the 1940s (ie, a united Ireland), vs a 1798 understanding (sovereign rule of/for/by the people)? I don’t know how much of their thinking is self-deceit vs wishful thinking vs hoodwinking the ‘consumer’.

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