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Political Party Brand Perception: A Case Study of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)

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Norris (2004) argues that political campaigning during the election period has shown great transformation over the years; from pre-modern, to modern and then postmodern campaigning. In a study steered by Harris, Perrin & Simenti-Phiri (2014), it was evident that South African politics is contributing to that transformation in political marketing, as confirmed by the growth in the use of political marketing consultants and advertising on various media platforms such as billboards, television and social media by many political parties. McDaniel (2012: 479) defines advertising “a form of impersonal paid communication,” which organizations use to communicate information about their brand, service or product to a large number of people at a time.

Norris (2004) and Raknes (2007) describe pre-modern campaigning as the form of promoting a party where party members and politicians directly and personally communicate with citizens and is normally a low budget strategy that uses media platforms such as printed posters and advertisements and direct communications, which involved organizing rallies, holding party branch meetings and conducting door to door campaigns in communities.

Historically, political parties practised campaigning by focusing solely on direct forms of marketing communications between themselves and the citizens (Norris, 2004). Direct forms of marketing communication would undertake a more personal approach in order to better reach and influence voters. Many political parties still prefer pre-modern political campaigning to effectively target the rural communities (Dabula (2016). Moreover, in the pre-modern times, the main objective of campaigning was to invigorate, motivate and retain the parties’ loyal members as opposed to gaining new members.

In contrast, post-modern campaigning can be distinguished by tactics that include communication on a broader and wider scale for increased reach (Norris, 2004), especially to gain new members and influence their voting decisions. Raknes (2007: 94) describes these tactics as having a larger budget because they aim to convey specialized “narrowly casted, targeted micro messages,” with the assistance of external stakeholders such as celebrities and marketing or public relations consultants. The post-modern campaigning strategy includes the multiple media channels, particularly the various news television channels, radio stations, telemarketing and direct email. In addition, Dabula (2016) highlights that the arrival of the internet and social media offers political parties the opportunity to interact with their voters, instead of one sided communications.

When political parties are campaigning, these are marketing activities which are taking place. In this regard, says Kumar and Dhamija (2017), political parties operate similarly to market-oriented organizations. Likewise, the political party needs to persuade the voters to support their manifesto, which is considered as the product or service, and the voters buying into this product thus resulting in the purchasing decision – voting for them in the election. Similarly to Durmaz and Direkçi’s (2015: 3) view; “political marketing literature accepts the analogy of parties as business engaged in a competitive relationship aiming to secure an “exchange” with consumers.”

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By campaigning, political parties are applying marketing principles in order to positively appeal to the community at large, which Dabula (2016) argues is to gain numbers and grow their ‘political market share’ and ultimately increase their votes at the polls. Furthermore in marketing principles; the volunteers working in political party structures are considered as the distribution aspect of the marketing mix in the case of a political organization (Kumar and Dhamija, 2017).

Researchers such as Akyuz (2014) and Pich and Dean (2015) suggest that the transformation of political marketing should employ the fundamentals of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) to guide the party towards creating and maintaining valuable relationships between the political party and the voters and other stakeholders that will contribute towards achieving the party objectives.Copley (2014: 445) defines IMC as “the cohesive mix of marketing communications activities, tools and techniques that deliver a coordinated and consistent message to target customers and consumers synergistically in order to achieve organisational goals”. Copley (2014) adds that the key principle in IMC in any marketing activities is that the brand message must be aligned to the brand strategy across all media channels in order to maintain a consistent brand identity.

While many scholarly articles provide different descriptions and meanings of what political marketing is, it has been noted that ultimately political marketing is based on applying the fundamentals of marketing to political parties and political party leaders. Typically, “for political parties and candidates, political marketing is done through communicating messages and building image and credibility” (Dabula, 2016: 48). Essentially, the two common characteristics of political branding is identification and differentiation (Nielsen, 2015). In other words, in order for political parties to brand themselves, they need to be both identifiable and present different offerings from their competitors; such as their policies and manifestos.

A party’s manifesto defines and frames the main campaign themes that a party aims to address once it becomes the government party (Eder et al, 2017). Secondly, a party’s manifesto helps a party preserve its distinct brand and can be used in the campaign to gather votes. (Eder et al, 2017).

Political party manifestos play an integral part in what democracy represents. In addition, political analysts can use manifestos when analysing political parties in comparison to each other (Eder et al, 2017). Potential voters can also use party manifestos to identify which issues and policies the party considers a priority in the country (Odmalm, 2019). Eder et al (2017) argue that although research has emphasised the content of party manifestos, much less has been written about how parties produce manifestos and the function of manifestos in campaigns. Nevertheless, Eder at al (2017) maintain that the manifesto should be a means to provide candidates with information of the party’s intentions; the manifesto should always be in line with the campaign’s strategy.

However, not all literature considers political marketing as essential in politics. Durmaz and Direkçi (2015) highlight that marketing has in some instances been seen as unethical and superficial in politics; “the real substance of politics would suffer under the candidates’ need to concentrate on only simplified and popular topics.” (Durmaz and Direkçi, 2015: 3). Milewicz and Milewicz (2015) also recognize that there are positive and negative impacts to political branding, stating concerns regarding the top-down nature of the political sphere which may be effective for the politician but the opposite for the political party.

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Political Party Brand Perception: A Case Study of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
“Political Party Brand Perception: A Case Study of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Political Party Brand Perception: A Case Study of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 Feb. 2023].
Political Party Brand Perception: A Case Study of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. Available from:
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