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A tagline or slogan is an extremely important communication tool for any business and it is an especially important tool for a political party during an election campaign. The slogan communicates to voters what the party’s vision is for the country in the coming years and if used wisely, it is a great opportunity to connect with the electorate.

Can A Slogan Win Or Lose An Election?

To answer this we can look at some of the best recent examples of effective and ineffective use of slogans in election campaigns.

2002

Bertie Ahern’s and Fianna Fáil “A lot done. More to do” slogan in the 2002 election, was extremely memorable and powerful. The slogan made you feel that Fianna Fáil are working for me and that they have done a lot but I expect them to do more and they are telling me that they will! The campaign was an obvious success with Fianna Fáil winning the election and the party were only a few seats short of achieving an overall majority.

2008

During the worst economic downturn in the history of the world, Barack Obama rallied Americans (and the world) and instilled belief among voters with his “Yes we can” slogan in 2008. An interview with David Axelrod, Obama’s Chief Advisor for his 2008 campaign states that “Yes we can” is credited with capturing the imagination of voters tired of Washington’s cynical brand of politics and helped position Barack Obama as a grass-roots candidate taking on an apparently impossible task. As we all know, Barack Obama was elected president after this campaign.

2016

Fine Gael (and Labour) have done a very good job of guiding the country out of a dark economic place and Fine Gael launched their 2016 election campaign with the slogan “Let’s keep the recovery going”. It is clear that the aim of the slogan was that it would resonate and connect with the people of the country and this is a very good tactic if that is how the majority of the electorate actually felt.

The first time I read the slogan I didn’t forget it purely because I thought ‘What recovery!’. The country’s fiscal deficit has been reduced and the overall macro-economic factors are improving but the recovery hasn’t been felt personally by the majority of people, especially outside of the Dublin. For this reason, in my opinion the slogan served to agitate people more than rally the voters, with people wondering why am I not feeling this recovery?

This would be supported by the early indicators from the count centres suggesting that the party will achieve at least 15 seats less than expected and they will not be returned to government with Labour as a partner.

Conclusion

I have heard many radio journalists criticise Fine Gael’s 2016 slogan “Let’s keep the recovery going” and this morning I heard a Fine Gael representative on Radio One respond that it is “just a slogan” but he is wrong and unfortunately for Fine Gael, the voters appear to have told them that they got it wrong. A campaign slogan is an extremely valuable communication tool that sets the tone for the entire election and the core message it delivers can influence voters either way hence a campaign slogan plays a major role in winning or losing an election, just ask Barack Obama.

Cathal Quinn
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