Politicians grasp the concept of branding. However, like much of what they grasp, they have misused and abused the practice.

Here are the parts they get. Anyone running for President must:

– carve out a unique position which will separate them from their competitors.
– develop a simple, memorable phrase that effectively communicates their brand.
– design a distinctive look that builds on their brand message.
– communicate their brand with every opportunity.

Let’s just look at this last election to see how it worked out.

Barack Obama
Brand Position:  The first black U.S. president who would stand for the disenfranchised and change the way things were done in Washington.
Brand Personality: Peace, love and understanding.
Brand Slogan:  Hope and change.
Brand Logo: The O shaped flag, looking like the sun rising over the horizon, communicating the dawning of a new day.

Obama even understood the need to extend his brand once he was elected. The overall brand remained, but has been tailored to individual campaigns to meet his tactical objectives. He’s had many. Like the “Health Care for All” campaign and the “Win the Future” campaign, and his current “Pass this Bill” campaign. These all fit neatly under his “Hope and Change” brand.

So, that was the winner. Let’s look at loser of the last election.

John McCain
Brand Position: War hero who is not afraid to stand up to power, whether they be North Vietnamese prison guards or the Washington establishment.
Brand Personality: A fearless fighter.
Brand Slogan: The Maverick
Brand Logo: A military patch, complete with a military star, and looking like a World War II fighter coming directly at you.

In 2008, consumers (voters) chose the brand that was most closely aligned with how they were feeling. We were tired of fighting, we wanted a change.


Now, to all of you presidential candidates, here’s what you DON’T get about branding.

THE BRAND SLOGAN IS A SUMMARY OF WHAT YOU  STAND FOR, NOT YOUR ENTIRE PLATFORM! There needs to be more substance to your brand than simply repeating the words “Hope and Change” or “I’m a maverick”.

IF YOU DON’T LIVE UP TO THE PROMISE YOUR BRAND MAKES, WE WILL COME BACK TO BITE YOU! If you campaign on “Hope and Change”, and what we really get is “Hopelessness and the Same”,  people will remember and we will hold it against you.

And finally,

YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BRAND YOURSELF, NOT THE OTHER GUY! If politicians spent more time clarifying, building and reinforcing their own brand, and less time trying to brand their opponent, this country would be in much better shape than it is. It may be unsettling when they repeat their own slogan over and over again, but it’s downright nauseating to see them do the same to the opposition, no matter which side of the isle.

“Liberal elite.”
“Racist tea bagger.”
“The party of No.”
“Tax and spend Liberal.”

Some people believe we need a businessman to run this country because of their ability to work within a budget. I say we need a businessman who not only understands finance,  but understands how to live up to the brand that they create.