Kenyan politics date way back, from the de facto one party State led by KANU to the acrimonious struggle for multi-partism. The country has witnessed its fair share of political contests, with the 2002 National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) wave that propelled President Mwai Kibaki to power standing out.
The NARC wave not only swept the imagination of Kenyans, it also gave them hope of a better future as KANU stranglehold on power came to an end.
In a way, the 2002 general election was a catalyst into the emergence of branding in Kenyan politics. The National Rainbow Coalition symbol had a mixture of yellow, green and blue colors on its logo while its slogan was “Haki yetu sasa inawezekana.”
KANU on the other hand maintained its black, red, white and green colors with an image of a “Jogoo” as its symbol.
Political parties have since then taken up branding as a way to appeal to voters. Rebranding however in most cases fails terribly as the cast remains the same.
The collapse of NARC paved way for the formation of the Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement party by the same players.
PNU was basically NARC rebranded. While ODM which remains the single largest party was formed as a result of a fall-out in NARC.
PNU’s symbol were two torches with flames while its slogan “Kazi iendelee” was a branding strategy to woo voters to re-elect President Mwai Kibaki for a second term and give him an opportunity to continue with his development projects.
ODM on the other hand embraced an Orange as its symbol and “ODM chungwa” as its slogan. The party has since rebranded and changed its slogan to “Chungwa tuko tayari” in line with the changing dynamics of Kenya politics.
The emerging branding and rebranding trends in Kenya politics were however on full show when President Uhuru Kenyatta launched The National Alliance party in May 2012.
In a launch graced with splendor, color and class, his supporters could only watch in admiration as President Kenyatta unveiled a party that would later propel him into Presidency.
The party brought together veteran politicians as well as young and fresh blood who were actually in charge of the day to day running of party affairs.
Unknown to the many supporters gathered at KICC on that day, The National Alliance had actually been founded in 2002 by a prominent Nairobi businessman and politician, but only attained its identity when President kenyatta took over.
With red as its color, a dove as its symbol and “I Believe” as its slogan, not a single party has before then come up with a marketing strategy to rival the launch of TNA.
The same could be said of the Jubilee Party that was launched in September 2016 as a re-election vehicle for President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto.
It again captured the attention of many supporters in an elaborate event as the two politicians refreshed their brand and gave it more appeal and identity.
Jubilee party’s logo had two hands locked in greetings which was a symbol of their coming together. The party embraced red, white and yellow as its colors while its slogan “Tuko Pamoja” basically translates to “we are together.”
In years to come, as witnessed in the last few years, branding will play a huge role in Kenyan politics even as new branding trends continue to emerge.
Politicians will have to go back to the drawing board to come up with fresh designs and identities in readiness for the 2022 general election.
And while political branding remains way below that of globally recognized brands, it is evident that the theory will change if the events of the last two political setups is anything to go by.
The writer is Head of Marketing Jamii Group of Companies and a Scholar.
The views expressed herein don’t necessarily represent the opinion of KBC