It seems as though campaign season has started early. With more than 16 months until the next presidential election, there are already more than 20 candidates who have declared their intention to be the next American president. The upcoming barrage of campaign calls may seem a nuisance to some, but we should not overlook the opportunity to learn some poignant logo design lessons on branding and visual identity from the quickly mounting, literal landscape of yard signs.
As a point of reflection, the 2008 campaign of President Barack Obama was notably the first time in American history that a campaign logo was used (and well executed) as a foundation for broader marketing strategy. During the course of that election (and the subsequent 2012 election), the signature O with red and white horizon stripes was repurposed, incorporated and evolved into design efforts targeting virtually every conceivable demographic in the country.1 That strategic design success has certainly been noted, and replication attempts are in progress by the current crop of candidates.
Here are a few branding trends we’re seeing this election season:
My Name Is…
Typically, politicians have been identified by surname or by full name (i.e. Obama, George W. Bush). Many of next year’s hopefuls have dumped their last names for campaign logos. Why? There’s a level of familiarity and accessibility that comes along with calling someone by their first name. It’s endearing to target audiences. It immediately puts distance between them and family legacies in politics. And then…there’s star power in a single name. Just ask Cher, Madonna and Prince.
The logo lesson: An effective logo cannot just represent your company. It also has to connect you to your target audience(s) in some way—whether that’s in familiar style, hue or iconic implication. Short + sweet + simple = memorable.
Tying a Tagline
While your name is a matter of fact, your position is a matter of preference and strategic choice. Incorporating a tagline into your visual identity strategy is a simple way to keep your name connected to a concept. Many of the current candidate pool have hitched their names to aspirational statements they believe will hit home with voters.
The identity lesson: While taglines are a great way to convey an overarching mission or outlook, they are defining. Be prepared to consistently live any line you attach to your logo. You will be measured by those words frequently, so choose carefully.
Brand Beyond the Campaign
The next presidential election is in 2016. In a distinct departure from campaign art past, more candidates are leaving those magic numbers out of their logo design strategy. Why? Voters know when Election Day is; hammering home the year is usually a waste of valuable visual space. Conveying the candidate name is the priority, and more importantly, capitalizing on the opportunity to build a strong brand around that candidate for the duration of their political career—particularly for lesser known hopefuls— is critical. You have to seize the moment to ensure maximum residual impact.
The branding lesson: Your brand should not be seasonal. Think long range. Plan ahead for foreseeable future usage and evolution.
If you find that your visual identity and message are not resonating with your constituents in a manner that drives business and builds recognition for your company within the marketplace, it’s time to make a change. The advantage for businesses: you’re not on deadline for Election Day. Partnership ageements and purchase decisions are made every day, so there’s never a bad time to get your brand back on track. Hopefully these logo design lessons well put you on the right track.
1 The 2008 Obama campaign art is documented in Designing Obama, a visual history compiled by campaign Design Director, Scott Thomas.
*This post is solely a commentary on campaign marketing and endorses no particular political party or candidate.