So Crosby/Textor has been designing Brand Key from Day 1, isn’t this just what every party does? No, it isn’t – Crosby/Textor uses a particularly undemocratic, nasty form of political marketing (more on that in later posts) and the extent to which National uses Crosby/Textor is simply beyond the financial means of any other party.
Consider this. Crosby/Textor was hired to create the image of Brand Key that we now hear repeated mindlessly in the media (he’s a nice guy, he’s a consensus builder) and make Brand Key the entire basis of debate on National’s re-election campaign back in November 2006. Since then, there have been monthly visits from Textor or other C/T advisors at the cost of $10K per visit (you can tell when they’ve happened, Key has a new line to repeat ad nauseam and speaks more coherently for the next few weeks as he repeats his lines). That’s $200K right there.
Then there’s focus-grouping. The C/T lines that you hear Key repeat come straight from focus grouping. A small focus group run costs $30K and is pretty ineffective, which is why Labour hasn’t done one since December. A decent round of focus groups would cost $50K+ and C/T is conducting them monthly for National’s lines. Already, we’re talking the think end of a million dollars spent by National on Crosby/Textor. No other party can afford to spend a fraction of that amount because they don’t have the large (until now secret) donors.
A political party does not resort to C/T’s expensive, scummy, disrespectful strategy if it can win honestly because, ultimately, C/T politics is very destructive, both for democracy based on an informed populace and for the party that uses it – they end up unprincipled, baseless, a shell of a party with no heart.
But National knows it cannot win on its policies, or its record or the competence of its people. So, unique among New Zealand parties, it is shelling out a fortune for foreign advisors to develop a strategy to pull the wool over voters’ eyes.