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Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: Branding Challenges in the 2021 Conservative Party Campaign

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Political Marketing in the 2021 Canadian Federal Election

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in Political Marketing and Management ((Palgrave Studies in Political Marketing and Management))

Abstract

The 2021 Conservative Party ran what should have been a successful campaign. A weakened prime minister, hobbled by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic headwinds of inflation and uncertainty, was an easy target. Coupled with Jagmeet Singh's personal popularity and the relative strength of the Bloc Quebecois, the Tory campaign had a real opportunity to leapfrog the Liberals and win the most seats. Erin O'Toole tacked to the centre, even centre left, by releasing a 100-page plus platform and immediately running a policy wonkish campaign focused on issues the public cared about. They were hoping to mimic the surprise provincial victory by the Tim Houston-led Progressive Conservatives in Nova Scotia in the first week of the campaign. Alas, it was not to last as the softening of the Conservative brand did not break through. Familiar narratives, like gun control and sheep-in-wolf's-clothing attacks, hammered O'Toole in the middle of the campaign and despite presenting a bigger tent image of the party, the Conservatives wound up exactly where they were with Andrew Scheer two years earlier. This chapter considers the bind that the Conservative Party marketing and branding strategists found themselves in appeal to the populist right and alienate moderate voters who are key to a Tory majority government, tack to the centre and alienate the grassroots right, with their focus on everything from vaccination mandates to less government intervention to immigration. The brand is at odds with the political market it hopes to win. It contrasts the O'Toole campaign in 2021 with the Scheer campaign in 2019 and looks at whether the anti-Justin Trudeau message that had become the mantra of the party through three elections simply did not resonate beyond the base.

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Correspondence to Jamie Gillies .

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Gillies, J., Wisniewski, A. (2023). Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: Branding Challenges in the 2021 Conservative Party Campaign. In: Gillies, J., Raynauld, V., Turcotte, A. (eds) Political Marketing in the 2021 Canadian Federal Election . Palgrave Studies in Political Marketing and Management. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-34404-6_3

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