There are brands and there are great brands.
Apple, Lululemon and Singapore Airlines are great brands.
Great brands are a romantic notion. They are a love affair between product and consumer. They inspire loyalty and affection. They are cool and often counter cultural. They are confident and ambitious.
Great brands are about trust and engagement. This trust is hard to earn but easy to lose.
Great brands need not be perfect but they should ascribe to perfection. Apple messed up with its maps but it confessed to its failure and corrected itself.
Great brands bring meaning to a product by transcending their physical attributes. Apple is not a set of devices, it is an ecosystem. Lululemon is not yoga wear, it is a culture of fitness.
Great brands are not about price, they are about excellence, integrity and caring. In fact people will pay more for a great brand: Apple and Lululemon have the highest profit margins in their industry.
Great brands are not always the best known nor the biggest. Lululemon does not advertise. It is one-sixteenth the size of Nike but it has a following Nike would kill for.
There are only a few great brands in politics. Nelson Mandela is one. Cory was another. PNoy is a work in progress. They have the trust factor, the essential element of a great brand. The test is whether they can transfer their cachet to an institution, one that will survive the person. Mandela was able to partially do this for the ANC, the dominant party in South Africa. Can PNoy do it for the Liberal Party? What would the LP need to become a great political brand?
One, it should offer a holistic vision that encompasses the moral as well as the material.
It should inspire trust and loyalty. It should be confident in the power of its ideals. It should be ambitious.
It should be discerning in the choice of its leaders. As Groucho Marx said: “I want no part of a club that would accept me as a member.” The LP should not be a gathering of convenience for politicians without a cause. It should be a commonwealth of individuals with shared values and high purpose.
It should have a code of conduct and a set of principles. Its leaders should be held to a strict standard of excellence. It should be a government within a government.
It should be inclusive and meritocratic. It should attract the best and the brightest.
It should be organized. It should be knowing. It might compromise its tactics but should not compromise its goals. It should be daring, even ruthless if it comes to that. As Machiavelli said: “The virtuous leader is compelled to do hard things, to take the sins of the situation upon itself. Sometimes bad acts produce good outcomes. Sometimes a leader has to love his country more than his soul”.
Can the LP be such an enterprise?
For the LP to be a party we could fall in love with, as its titular head the President would have to believe it is possible. He would have to lend his considerable popularity and goodwill to making it happen.
He would have to indelibly stake his name to the party. He would have to get leaders with similar standing –Grace Poe, Leni Robredo and their likes- to sign off with him.
He would have to attract the best talent by proving the value of an LP endorsement. At the same time he should cull the undesirables from its leadership.
He would have to deliver on his promises. He would have to make economic progress more inclusive.
He would have to build the party into a formidable machine. He would have to use his considerable sway to raise serious money for the organization.
He would have to get us to trust the organization as we trust him. He would have to sell, sell and sell.
There was a time when we had a functioning two-party system, the Liberals and the Nationalistas. Marcos shattered this, leaving the landscape with a myriad of political pop-ups –LP, NP, NPC, PMP, PDP-Laban, Lakas, Lakas-NUDC, UNA, UNO- with no character nor identity. Post-martial law politics became transactional with adherence to personalities rather than ideals, it became feudalistic and oligopolistic.
Last May for the first time Filipinos expressed concern over the growing encroachment of family dynasties and other barbarians at the gate. They voted overwhelmingly for Team PNoy as a proxy for the President. In 2016 that option is not there and they will be looking for an entity to embrace. The LP could be such an option but it will not be hands free. Its leaders must recognize the potential of what they have and the confidence to fulfill that potential.
Right now I am not certain that they do.