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John Armstrong: Welcome to the cool, funky, and er, sober, Labour Party

Written By: - Date published: 2:11 pm, April 22nd, 2010 - 22 comments
Categories: labour, Politics - Tags:

John Armstrong was quite gentle on the release of  internal ‘brand’ survey.  He says:

Think Labour, think funky. Think Labour, think edgy. Think Labour, think cheeky. Think what? Labour is worried that when people think Labour they don’t think anything. And if they do, they don’t see Labour as being modern, dynamic or cool. Labour is very much alive. It is just having trouble convincing the populace of that fact….It was good for a laugh. But Labour is very much alive. It is just having trouble convincing the populace of that fact.

I don’t want to go into the rights and wrongs of having such a document enter the public domain (does everyone remember what fun Labour had when they found a similar document from National in 2006? see here). I just hope it doesn’t get in the way of examining the real issues – the stuff that matters, right?

22 comments on “John Armstrong: Welcome to the cool, funky, and er, sober, Labour Party ”

  1. Irascible 1

    Armstrong, TVNZ & TV3 demonstrate the shallowness of the NZ news media as reporters and analysts. To make a news story out of one page and four words of a longer survey shows how little the News Hounds use to interview their typewriters and brownlee.

  2. Blue 2

    You can’t blame the media for seizing on this. If you give them the opportunity for an attention-grabbing, fluffy, mindless story they will seize it with both hands.

    The idea that Labour might think they are ‘funky’, ‘cool’ and ‘edgy’ is just too ridiculous. I have no idea why these things were included in the survey. Brand values like those are not going to win them the next election.

    To the casual observer, it looks like a sign that Labour has no idea what it’s doing.

  3. george 3

    I thought Fran Mold’s piece was hilarious!

  4. “Funky” “cool” and “edgy” were only three words amongst a long list. Other words that were there from memory included “compassionate”, “environmental” and “competent”.

    So it is a stretch Blue to say that Labour might think that it is anything.

    A casual observer may form an incorrect impression that Labour has no idea what it is doing.

    A serious observer will be certain that this Government has not the slightest idea of the damage that it is causing.

    • Blue 4.1

      I agree, MS.

      The problem is that the media are not always a serious observer, and they will spin things into something that was never meant if you give them the opportunity.

      Phil Goff found the same thing earlier this week when his criticisms of JK were spun as ‘admiration’.

    • tp 4.2

      A shame the words progressive, democratic or egalitarian never appeared in that same list of values.

  5. Peter Martin 5

    Be fair…nothing else happened in Parliament yesterday…

  6. Fuck keeping things on the low low! Labour needs to be up front, grimey and down for whatever…nahmsayin ?

  7. RobertM 7

    Maybe if the influence of gays and social workers was reduced to their 2% proportion in the population. Maybe if egalitarianism and equalism were recognised as anti change and negatives and maybe if they made Lianne Dalziel and Trevor Mallard the leadership team. Cunliffe and Cosgrove could be 3 &4.

  8. Lew 8

    What people think of when they think “Labour party” is the “stuff that matters”. That’s why it’s so important that they’re paying attention to it — even if it’s a bit unfortunate that it escaped. Contra Blue, it’s a strong sign, and a fairly rare one, that Labour does actually have the slightest idea what it’s doing.


  9. cowpat 9

    These comments seem excessively negative for what should be a pleasant exercise for Labour people.

    Having been involved in a couple of branding exercises, the words on the list are an orthodox list of the kinds of things marketing people ask people what they want the logo to look like. Most people have a good idea of the main things they want, but testing a long list of words can turn up some ideas that are much more popular than others, or unexpectedly polarising. That is valuable information for a designer.

    Likewise, asking a wide group is helpful because people outside the executive floors often have different views to marketers and management. You can’t find that out without asking them.

    Can’t agree with Blue’s comment that “The idea that Labour might think they are ‘funky’, ‘cool’ and ‘edgy’ is just too ridiculous.” In an exercise like this, it is predictable that someone will say a ‘new logo should be more funky’ or ‘make it edgy’. That is even more predictable in a party with a lot of artists and creative people. Therefore, it is valuable to know that people like Blue don’t want something edgy. But you have to ask to find out if many people want it. What Blue is saying is that no one should even be given the option to ask if the logo should be ‘cool’ or funky. But that’s only Blue’s opinion – what if everyone disagrees with you Blue? How do you know you’re right? What do you say to someone who says ‘Labour is cool and should have an edgy logo’? You could say ‘no you are wrong and not entitled to your opinion, or you could say ‘not many people want us to be edgy – there are more popular values people want to see.’

    As for TP’s comment that words “progressive, democratic or egalitarian” should have been included – it’s been a few days since I did the survey but I’m sure “progressive” was included. But it’s hard to see how a designer would make sense of a direction to make the logo ‘egalitarian’. ‘Compassionate’ was there – it’s actually common to ask about that one in a brand survey, even for a heartless giant corporation. You can imagine asking an artist for something that felt trusted and progressive. But democratic? Not sure.

    But even if you thought those words should have been there – you could add your own words. If more than few people write them in, that’s valuable information as well. So it’s a bit of a stretch to imply Labour’s consultation over its logo somehow excluded some basic principles about Labour’s philosophy.

    The interesting question is whether consultation implies that the party has lost its way and is floundering about trying to find a direction; or if it means the party is confident enough in itself to listen to what others have to say. It’s a tribute to Phil Goff’s leadership that the party is prepared to be open enough to consult on this. It’s hard to see what harm it does.

  10. Rodel 10

    I completed this brand survey thing but thought it was trivial rubbish- not really what the Labour party is about- just marketing fluff- The sort of emptiness one might expect from the Hootens of this world.

    • Salsy 10.1

      Well the Hootens seem to be doing quite well if you havent noticed there Rodel. I say hats of off to Goff for finally coming to terms with the fact that hes pretty glued to the old 8%. I would suggest that Labour re-brand hard into a centre left party (NACT light), reverse out the logo, make it predominantly white, clean and shiny. Step away from the I know better Model – (both Goff and Clark have almost the same slighlty condescending manner), dump the harley (and its passenger preferably) and try an open agile approach i.e poll and react. But most importantly bring home the fact that the vision and subsequently the policies of the National party are about turning NZ into another Joburg.

  11. Olwyn 11

    As Bill observed on an earlier discussion along these lines, if we are to win the next election it will be at grass roots level, since the corporates have their blue-eyed boy and we do not feature in the career trajectory of an ambitious journalist. This does not make the branding exercise redundant but it does put it into perspective. Over at Bowalley Road, Victor said of the pre-election pursuit of Winston Peters, “It was a shameful episode in the history of New Zealand’s media and a storm-warning of the slide into corporatism..” These people, however, do not control the narrative as fully as they think they do, as was evidenced by a jury of ordinary citizens finding the plow-shears guys not guilty. What I would like everyone to wake up to is what a vile narrative it is – a narrative all but devoid of goodness, appealing to greed, fear, resentment, idiot titillation and “practicality” as a euphemism for selfishness and non-thought. When you turn on National radio and occasionally hear someone talking to broader or deeper human concerns it is like water in a desert.

  12. Perhaps Goff, if he admires Key so much, should ask him to scribble a slick new logo on a napkin live on Breakfast for the twattish Paul henry and the dim witted Pippa to fawn over then auction it on trademe for shitloads and repay the kindness by donating the proceeds to the Labour party “charity”.

    Maybe something like a hand forming an L sign ?

    Seriously though, I just hope they don’t get whoever designed the ‘chocolate starfish’ logo for Telecom to redesign the new Labour one.

  13. bobo 13

    Once Labour becomes just a brand its f$$Ked in the same way the allblacks have become just a brand. The whole simplistic view that changing a logo will somehow get them relevance is window dressing, even worrying about a logo design at a time when they are struggling to be an effective opposition is a luxury way down the list at the moment. Time to promote some young talent to the front bench, Id like to see more of Kelvin Davis, Moana Mackey, Carmel Sepuloni, Phil Twyford given more responsibility, Labour needs to rebrand through people not 2d logos.. oh well enough crap from me tonight..

    • Lew 13.1

      Why would it be just a brand? How does being a brand prevent a party from having sound politics behind it?

      A strong political brand and competent image and campaign management are necessary for parties to win sufficient public buy-in to enact a strong policy agenda. Not a substitute.


  14. Irascible 14

    Having been around politics for some time my memory is a little longer than that of the current crop of “journalists” and commentators so I can remember a whole series of image changes and logos used by the political parties over the years. Labour has used a fern leaf, a stylised L in a circle, an L made of three squares, and the current logos incorporating the NZ flag.
    National has morphed from the word “National” through to its present skating N during its history. The other political parties have also altered their logos over the years to bring their image up to date.
    The difference was that the logos change took place without the public consultation… the advertising agencies made recommendations and the campaign committees agreed, after debate at he Council table.
    Now, the consultation about the presentation of the party becomes a shallow news story presented as “humour”.
    Where is the connect with reality?

  15. sean14 15

    Have a sense of humour FFS! If it were a National party document you’d be tripping over each other to make fun of it!

  16. Irascible 16

    An interesting story out of the UK on how the media have locked out political commentary out of self interest and bias.
    slightly off topic but revealing considering the reporting tradition of the Herald

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