There are many, many stories about Richard Branson, the visionary owner of the Virgin Group, such as his guerilla marketing strategy against British Airways. But all of these stories relate to his ability to use media and PR as his master brand strategy.
And his vision appeals to the dreamers – space flights that are sort of affordable, a new supersonic plane to cross the Atlantic in a time the Concord could only dream of, and of course the PR stunts to launch one of his myriad of brands that are designed to capture the maximum of attention by their out of the box nature, such as the rebranding of Virgin Blue to Virgin Australia.
With a small budget, and up against category killers that have huge budgets but that have become complacent and lazy, Richard Branson has managed to successfully carve out niches that to this day help his brand thrive and survive long after the froth and bubble of the launches have settled.
It’s a brand strategy that many have tried to follow, some successfully, some not so. In Australian politics this strategy has been nicely cut and paste by Nick Xenophon. He is the Richard Branson of Australian politics, building a positive image of his brand, the David, or in this case the Nick, against the Goliaths – the old, complacent category killers of the two major political parties, through some smart marketing and political strategies.
He is a master of gaining publicity from some very nice guerrilla marketing methods, from submarine cakes to demonstrate his support for the building of submarines in South Australia, where he remains confident of getting 3 Senators up at the expense of mainly Labor and the Greens, to pyjamas for the marathon sittings for the Senate voting reforms, and of course not forgetting dominating the media coverage for a weekend when he announced his candidate against Tony Abbott in Warringah long before Labor or the Greens had even thought about theirs. If there is an issue getting airtime in the media, and his brand aligns with it, then you’ll see and hear Nick Xenophon.
This is about getting and keeping your brand presence high in the minds of the voter consumer, always positive as the natural, and independent, contrast to the attacking spin from the majors. It’s a refreshing change and a strong point of differentiation between his brand and the others.
Whilst these stunts may not get much political mileage, they do allow for the voter consumer to dig a little deeper and see that there is much more substance to his brand than many give credit for.
Which is precisely why he is seen as such a big threat at this year’s election to the majors. For example, he has been a vocal advocate against poker machines for years, and for those who listened to him in the Senate when the Australian Consumer Law was being debated he certainly put up many, many amendments that consumer advocacy groups have long called for, such as ending over the counter transaction fees for cash payments on credit cards.
However what his Parliamentary performance demonstrates, like his stunts, is that he can’t set the political agenda but he can influence it, and sometimes the direction in which it heads. His perception of influence is therefore amplified which reinforces to those who voted for him why they did – he seems to be having an impact and getting outcomes.
The relaunch of his brand, changing it to Team NXT and adding the use of colour, orange, to aid in recall and brand resonance, are all about using that amplification of his brand to jump into the bigger markets on the eastern seaboard where he may not win any seats, but he may very well have a significant influence on the outcomes in enough lower and upper house seats to again amplify his influence well beyond his base in South Australia. And it’s working.
And don’t decry this, or him. The majors have been complacent for far too long, starting to become too focused on data driven politics, and forgetting what it means to be an authentic brand, even with the lessons of the past.
Ah yes, those lessons. Kevin from Queensland was authentic there for a while, as was John Howard, not to forget Bob Brown, leader of the Greens for so long and so admirably, and of course Pauline Hanson who spoke straight to the far right, now replaced by Jacquie Lambie who may yet prove some pundits wrong by going close to winning re-election on July 2.
Nick Xenophon has seen opportunity and taken it. Team NXT may very well by the close of counting at the next election hold balance of power in the Senate and the House of Reps. They may not either. But what is certain is that Nick Xenophon and Team NXT will have done enough to emerge as the most positive brand in 2016, one that is gaining strong resonance between it and a market thirsty for real in politics.
With an increase in staff, funding, members and votes by the end of 2016 Team NXT will have the influence that will see them shape the direction of politics well into the next Parliament. Team NXT is well and truly here to stay, and have a say.