Don't give away the farm (or brand)
Opinion polling completed last fall by Justason Market Intelligence asked residents of Vancouver to name, without prompting, the major municipal political parties.
A staggering 36% couldn’t name one single party and another 11% named parties that no longer exist or that aren’t active on the municipal level, such as the NDP.
Besides the obvious gap in civic knowledge, comes fascinating details about the brand strength of each of the main parties duking it out.
Of the 64% who could name a party, 46% of respondents named the NPA, 36% named COPE and way down the list was Vision Vancouver’s awareness at 20%.
It becomes clear from the research the dangerous path COPE is treading by considering disbanding itself in favour of the opportunistic Vision Vancouver crew which fiercely eviscerated COPE in the lead up to the 2005 campaign.
The small but well-funded Vision force with its four councilors wants to take-over the remnants of COPE, which holds one council spot and five seats on School Board and Parks Board.
Nice trick, but if the left folds COPE into Vision, they will lose years of hard-fought branding – something that the right in Canada has learned isn’t worth forfeiting lightly.
The Reform Party went through a similar ill-thought exercise in 2000 when it re-surfaced as the Canadian Alliance. Voters didn’t have a clue what the organization stood for and, while leader Stockwell Day did well in the 2000 election, it wasn’t as good as the result when it adopted the well-known “Conservative” brand by reaching out to long-time Progressive Conservatives.
Vision Vancouver scores particularly badly among self-identified ethnic voters, with less than 6% of South Asian and Chinese voters able to name the group. COPE scores more than double that, at 13%, among this important and growing demographic.
The NPA, perhaps as a result of Mayor Sullivan’s language skills and outreach, is known by 31% of self-identified South Asian and Chinese respondents.
One myth that both COPE and Vision have cultivated is their supposed support among younger Vancouverites. Ironically, COPE is known by just 25% of those under the age of 45 and Vision by a mere 13%. The NPA beats out the others at 36%.
I understand the appeal that Vision’s slick approach and high-roller backers must have to COPE loyalists tired of slogging it out with small fundraisers and committed ideals. It is difficult to build political infrastructure without cash, and Vision seems to have lots of it.
But COPE, formed in 1968, is wise to play coy for some time in order to discover if Vision can build itself a wider base of awareness, before it sacrifices its name for political expediency.