The political party name game

Elections are in the spotlight. America has cast its ballot, and South Africa will soon be following suit. What's really exciting about our political climate is the introduction of the new political party, which until recently has had no name...
The political party name game - Brand UnionThis party has dominated the media and even invited South Africans to witness its first public conference. It has all the potential of becoming a prominent South African political party, but up until recently, there was one glaring omission: a name.

Not to rehash what I'm sure you already know, there have been complications with the naming of this party. The latest announcement was that it would call itself Congress of the People (which once again the ANC is protesting) - in my opinion a big mistake.

Memorable and representative

The ultimate goal of a name is to choose one that is memorable and representative of the party's values and goals. It should translate these values across a broad spectrum of South Africans and be catchy enough to remain top of mind.

This name should represent the party's ethos. I think the deeper issue here is that to date there hasn't been a substantial statement of exactly what the new party stands for. Congress of the People does not address this issue, and in addition aligns itself very heavily with the ANC. Type this party name into Google and have a look at the results; they all refer to the ANC conference that took place in the '50s, which is so much part of the ANC's history, culture and fabric.

That's its first mistake. It is trying to create an opposing force to the ANC, but its name only draws it back to the party that it is trying so hard not to be.

At present, all we seem to know about it is it is NOT the ANC. Short term, this may gain support from the deflated ANC supporter. However, a word of caution: this is a very risky positioning to take. It's a very bad long-term move to define yourself as merely being what your opposition is not; in effect, you are letting it define who you are!


The abbreviation of the party name is an important issue that doesn't seem to have been considered either. Not many people refer to political parties by full names, but rather opt for an abbreviated version. So let's look at some of the options: COP (well, this is pretty self-explanatory), CP (Conservative Party, Congress Party?) - both of which are already owned by other political factions. None of these abbreviations bodes well.

A name should be a snapshot into who you are and what you believe. All credit to it, this has been a relatively quick formation, but without this information, it is impossible to successfully translate its brand (because that's essentially what it is) to the South African public.

So let's recap, a name should:

  • Depict what you stand for
  • Differentiate you from your opposition and
  • Be memorable

According to this list, things are not looking good for the Congress of the People.

My advice to Messrs Lekota and Shilowa: take some time to define who and what your party stands for. Ask experts, test it out on the public, consider its legacy and keep it simple. What you stand for determines what you call yourself, and is the beginning of the process of building the brand of your party. If you get it right, the name will surely be on the lips of many South Africans for decades to follow.
11 Nov 2008 09:21


About the author

Anthony Swart is the CEO of The Brand Union ( in Africa. A deeply rooted African, with decades of experience in branding and marketing, Anthony has a passion for developing this continent and its brands, and a vision to help grow indigenous African brands to achieve their full potential. He has a BA in Industrial Psychology, and an MBA focusing on truth in brand promise. Anthony is married with three children, two rottweilers, two cats, four fish, a hamster and a Senagalese parrot. Contact him on tel + 27 (0)11 895 9300.