What’s In A Name?

‘Brexit’ is one of those genius pieces of branding that often gets overlooked in political campaigns. I wonder how much impact the name had on the outcome of the vote.

Once the term was coined, all of the news media in the UK and the world start imaging what the world will be like in a ‘Brexit’. The reporting moved from whether the exit is possible to how the idea is likely to take off and to a ‘what if’. We were bombarded about views of what’s possible with a ‘Brexit’ – we received a lot more coverage about it, for what most of the establishment would have assumed was a symbolic vote to stay in the EU.

Of course I don’t intend to belittle what a population believes about the future of their country. But it would be great to test the effect of the name.

Brands are about subtle association. They are meant to stay in your subconscious, usually to surface on association. The ‘Leave’ campaign in the UK had weaved the idea of associating the EU campaign to immigration, job loss and lack of economic control through the term ‘Brexit’ for a ‘British Exit’. The only way to regain British sovereignty was through a ‘Brexit’. A yes to British Exit from the EU was now, likely.

We have seen this before across the world.

Back in late 70s, Australia had a substantial debate on inheritance tax. The idea was that people should pay capital gains taxes on the inheritance when someone passes away. The opposition of this tax termed this ‘death’ tax. Ask yourself, would you ever favour a ‘death’ tax? Predictably inheritance tax was removed from the Australian system.

The Obama poster with the slogan ‘Hope’ is now part of history. It remains one of the best brand campaigns for an individual politician in modern history.

In India, slogans such as ‘Make in India’ for policy campaigns or ‘Acche Din’ for political campaigns are not mere accidents. They are profiled and tested before association. Of course the Modi government didn’t merely win on great campaign slogans, but their slogans and the related positive association was a great tool that seems to have delivered.

‘Bremain’ was never a viable alternative. The campaign could have been named #BritIn. I wonder whether that could have changed Britain’s future in the European Union.

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