Bruno Marchand, of the Quebec Forte et Fière party, when he was elected in Quebec City on November 7. He had been declared beaten a few hours earlier. The Canadian Press / Jacques Boissinot
At the end of an election night that will long remain in Quebec political annals, the leader of the strong and proud Quebec party, Bruno Marchand, a new face in politics, became mayor of Quebec.
Announced defeated just a few minutes after the closing of the polling stations, he succeeded in extremis to win the town hall with just a few hundred votes ahead of her main rival, Marie-Josée Savard, runner-up to the outgoing mayor, Régis Labeaume.
However, what is perhaps talked about the most since his victory is neither his atypical professional career, nor his electoral results. These are his running shoes that he is used to wearing on all occasions. From a political communication point of view, this is far from trivial.
The new mayor presents himself as a unifier and rejects what he calls “niche politics”, a political strategy that focuses on certain electoral clienteles rather than on the entire electorate. Since his victory, he keeps repeating that he wants to put partisan considerations aside. In short, it seems to be the polar opposite of political marketing that we often wrongly reduce to electoral patronage, terms that have a very bad press.
However, like other new elected officials before him, Bruno Marchand is indeed building a political brand. My research focuses in particular on the study of political communication strategies, of which political marketing is an essential element. In my opinion, the new mayor of Quebec offers us a good example of this phenomenon.
The political brand as a positioning tool
In political science, political marketing is characterized by the adaptation of techniques specific to commercial marketing for electoral and governance purposes. While the electorate is more and more volatile and little interested in the political thing, the parties and their candidates try to develop a political “offer” able to reach voters targeted according to their interests and their needs.
This offer takes various forms. The election promises are a clear part of it, but it goes far beyond the content of the election platforms. The political brand, just as it is the case for the commercial brand of a company, is used to express an offer as a whole that one seeks to associate with emotions, with a “style”, a philosophy. It is a positioning tool that makes it easy to translate all the complexity of the political world into something simple and attractive.
Thus, in the same way that we spontaneously associate certain characteristics and emotions with commercial enterprises – innovation and design with the Apple brand, for example – we seek to produce the same effect of association for political enterprises.
More than a logo or a slogan, the brand must be embodied to be effective. It therefore applies to a party, its candidates and its leader, the latter being the main ambassador – if not the central element – of the political offer. For new faces, projecting a strong brand is essential. Letting adversaries define one’s image can have dire political consequences.
Shoes as an element of communication
But what are Bruno Marchand’s shoes doing in this whole story? Far from being a detail, they say a lot about the personality of the mayor of Quebec, which is the basic element of the political brand he wants to project.
The new mayor says he does not believe in the left-right axis at the municipal level and describes his party as extreme centrist. It is therefore not on the basis of an original political position that he tries to define himself politically, but more on the basis of a personal position.
Several stressed that he was able to win in a race to five when he was hardly known to the general public. When he announced his victory, he told reporters: “It’s a race, it ended in a sprint, so it took shoes accordingly! “
Sports analogies are a frequent part of his speech, and his TV commercials show him running.
If the man is athletic, so is the politician. This is what seems to constitute the main elements of a story that forms the cornerstone of the “Bruno Marchand brand”. His running shoes are a hallmark of his personality. He makes it an element of political communication. They send a message of authenticity, determination and perseverance. Obviously, this is what he and his team seek not only to project, but to embody, to make tangible in the eyes of citizens.
A brand that goes beyond its main ambassador
The brand has already been taken up and discussed, which suggests that it is effective. Let us think here of the bets on social media as to the color of his shoes during his participation in the program “Tout le monde en parle”, or of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Andrée Laforest, who s ‘is presented wearing her own running shoes during her first official meeting with the mayor.
The image marks the spirits. The brand is taken over and we try to associate with it.
Note that this political brand will not only serve Bruno Marchand personally. It also risks defining its mandate as mayor, if not the very image of the city. Indeed, political marketing does not disappear with the voting booths between election periods. It also plays a role in times of governance. The personal mark of elected officials tends to impose themselves on that of the administrations they lead. As the Régis Labeaume brand has helped redefine the “Old Capital”, it’s a safe bet that that of the new mayor will also transform that of Quebec in its own way.
Thus, for a few months now, Bruno Marchand seems to be leaving his mark … at the footsteps of the race.
The original version of this article was posted on The Conversation, a non-profit news site dedicated to sharing ideas between academic experts and the general public.