Branding the Candidates
By: Mark Winter
Remember when I said that Barack Obama had the best brand of all of the candidates at the time? (Of course you don’t, but a girl can dream, can’t she?)
Well, you might say he’s the “BMW” of presidential brands, while John McCain is the Ford. Or, John McCain is 24’s Jack Bauer, while Barack Obama is James Bond.
Okay, you might not say it, but the 2008 Presidential Image Power Survey would:
Barack Obama is James Bond and John McCain is Jack Bauer. While that might make a great tagline for a rocking action-movie spoof, that sentence has nothing to do with a movie and everything to do with the way American voters view the presidential candidates.
In the 2008 Presidential Image Power Survey, released today by branding agency Landor Associates in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland, likely voters were asked to associate the presidential and vice presidential candidates with brands including fictional spies, retail outlets, snack foods and cars.
Voters associated Mr. Obama with BMW, Google and Target, while Mr. McCain was compared to Ford, Wal-Mart and AOL.
This is interesting, even fun, but I don’t know that it really means anything, other than another way to look at the race and the candidates’ message penetration. But brands are all about association. A brand is what we associate with a product, and a reason for buying it. For example, we might buy Macs because their brand seems cool, or we might buy a Ford because the brand seems tough. It’s an image we associate with a product, and how we relate to it on an emotional level.
And it’s powerful stuff. There’s a reason big companies, and big political power players, spend millions on their brands. And why even the smallest organization should pay attention to theirs.