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Why PDP, Nigeria's former ruling party, needs urgent rebranding – TheCable

  • November 18, 2021
  • 7 min read
Why PDP, Nigeria's former ruling party, needs urgent rebranding – TheCable

For Nigeria’s former ruling party, the big question should be: To re-brand or not to re-brand, as it looks hopefully forward to the national elections of 2023.
Sometime in 2019, the beleaguered leadership of Nigeria’s one time ruling party, the PDP, made an announcement that it was “re-branding”. If you read that story, you will notice the singular emphasis on ” name change” as the understanding of what a re-branding effort constitutes. Senator Ike Ekweremadu was penned down to head a committee to “walk the party leadership through the process.”
Despite immediate questions regarding the party’s understanding of what re-branding truly means, I thought this was a great idea and silently congratulated whoever gave them the idea and those that agreed to push for the program.
However, if you look at any penny thesaurus for synonyms of re-branding(lets not even get technical), you will see words like reinvent, remodel, revamp,revitalize, even overhaul.
Visual identity and name change: A tip of the ice-berg
There is a lot of confusion out there, it seems to me, about the very concept of re-branding. The brand design industry has been able to create the impression that re-branding is mostly about shapes, colors and forms. Basically identity issues.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I remember sitting through a lecture on branding delivered by one of Nigeria’s leading brand strategists in one of the M2 Brandwagon events sometime around 2010 where he illustrated his paper with the powerful imagery of an iceberg.
The mighty iceberg sits on the ocean but all you can see is the peak. Imagine if an inexperienced lookout officer on a ship assumes that the peak is all there is to it? Disaster!
The entire project of renaming and identity overhauling which I earlier referred to as shapes, colors and forms development are the mere tip of the iceberg. The real deal is right under, buried in corporate culture. Back to Peter “the rock” Drucker. We will examine some of these items in this essay.
It is therefore very clear that re-branding an organization like PDP must go beyond renaming and redesigns of identity collateral. The party needs a complete overhaul of its corporate practice and values. This is a difficult task given the nature of Nigerian politicians and even politics but there can be motivation to do the right thing if they realize that its a sink or swim. A professionally executed re-branding effort can make a significant difference in a major national election.
APC vs PDP: Who owns Corruption?
The jury is out! At the moment, PDP and its archrival, the APC are in deep competition for who has a greater and more authentic claim to the word: “corruption”. In the days when PDP was in power, the APC made it its business to attach that word to PDP in such a way that it has become a noose around the neck of the PDP.
Infact I can conclude that it meets all the criteria listed by Ries and Trout for “owning a word or phrase” in their all time classic: Positioning, the battle for your mind.
Unfortunately, even though the PDP, in the opposition has not been as devastating in the propaganda frontier as the then opposition APC, the current ruling party’s countless goofs and gaffes has helped it to acquire the toga of a truly corrupt party too. Fortunately for them, they are in power and the opposition PDP will have to do more than mouth expletives and elect good looking leaders.
To my surprise, this effort, which promised to mitigate PDPs image crisis was unfortunately abandoned in the run up to the 2019 elections. The media speculated that perhaps many leaders of the party were not comfortable with the proposed changes. Well, they went on to lose the election for many reasons. The good news is that a new opportunity is presented with the coming national elections. Fortunately they just had a very successful national congress which culminated in the election of the charismatic and experienced Senator Iyorchia Ayu. Party leaders must be told that the days of depending on extraneous activities to win elections are fast disappearing and the time has come to build parties that not only engage citizens but involve them in envisioning the hoped for future. A re-branding process can make this happen. Some of the key actions points to give the party a new, more acceptable image and to prepare it for possible.victory are articulated in the following six imperatives.
1. PDP needs to review its name and come up with a name that refreshes its reputation. This will create some challenges in a situation where many members are not literate and reside in the rural areas. The challenge is not insurmountable. The gains far outweigh the troubles. The thoughts and ideas associated with the party have nothing to do with good governance, leadership and prosperity.
2. Have you ever asked yourself why the rallying cry of PDP is “PDP power?”. What exactly is that supposed to communicate? That they are the party of power or the party in power? If so, how relevant does it still stand now that they have been out of power for many years? What emotions does it inspire in old and especially new members? What hope does it kindle in the hearts of the teeming millions who follow the party? The party needs to drop this antiquated rallying cry and invent a call to arms that inspires and projects members to a future expected.
3. PDP must overhaul its internal processes and systems including carrying out reforms in support of internal democracy. They must demonstrate to Nigerians that the new PDP, whatever new name it will be called, means business and is no longer willing to embrace impunity.
4. This is the time to compile the achievements of PDP governors and local government chieftains(Those who did well) and celebrate those achievements to high heavens. The job must not be left to the governors or LG chairmen alone, it must be co-ordinated by the national secretariat and should always demonstrate what the party has achieved in places where it holds sway.
5. The re-branding should set forth a strategy for communication that is agenda setting and predictive rather than reactive. A party in opposition, in the tradition of the inimitable Obafemi Awolowo, can alwys step forward with proposals and warnings about the critical sectors of the economy. They can commission reports, researches and present alternative solutions to poor policies by the government in power. Such a serious minded approach to opposition politics raises the level of the conversation and helps to position the party as a thinking organization with the ideas and capacities to take charge. A serious political institution should demonstrate rigor beyond the banalities of celebrating careless acts of government functionaries that have to significant impact just for the purpose of scoring cheap points.
6. Finally, I think its time for PDP to look for a professional event design and execution consultant to design an original event template for ALL their events such that even their event methodology becomes a branding tool for the party. I am sure most Nigerians are not too impressed with the lack of imagination displayed during public outings of all the major parties. They don’t operate with any template or formalized style. There is no guide to speaking which can help brevity and enhance communication. Guides can help speechwriters determine mandatory information that must be in every speech by a party official. You can determine that intros and speeches should be within certain agreed time limits. Event branding methodology will be pre-designed and formally adopted. This will deliver a consistent brand experience in ALL party events. Members begin to have a more emotional connection with the party because of the consistent branding, messaging and discipline.
Adeoya is an imaginative strategist and communicator. He can be reached at [email protected]
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