Branding critical in presidential campaigns

Many consumer brands seek to connect with consumers on a personal level in the same way US presidents have hoped to build relationship with voters.

By Alex Geraghty

Modern politics has become less about issues that affect us all, and more about the branding of those standing for office.

Political branding seems to be en vogue and is pursued as a deliberate strategy by candidates. Standing out from an opponent is a key factor of any presidential campaign, and as November 6th draws closer, the candidates are looking to do just that.

Mitt Romney has built his campaign on his strength as a businessman. He believes he is a born leader whose well-rounded life experience would make him the voter’s choice—that, and a campaign founded on what Obama failed to do during his first term in office.

President Barack Obama, however, has sold himself based on what he has accomplished during his first term as president. Committed to education, he seeks to improve job opportunities for college graduates, while protecting the middle class and taxing the 1%.

Richard Scullion, Senior Lecturer of Marketing Communications at Bournemouth University said a campaign founded on ‘positives’ is what many presidential candidates will aim to achieve as they build their brand.

“The key is to get enough consumers to like and value your brand,” Scullion said. “Meeting certain standards can give consumers incentive to buy into them. People like to be reminded that their choice was a sound one”.

That said, there’s always a hearty dose of negative campaigning, where candidates will try to pick holes in each other’s branding. According to Scullion, a lot of campaigns now implement sound bites, negative advertising, permanent campaigning and personality politics.

The presidential campaigning process in the US begins up to two years before an election. But it’s usually only when candidates are confirmed representatives of their relevant parties that they start to heavily invest in advertising.

To reach out to young voters, Obama’s efforts in 2008 made heavy use of social media platforms like YouTube. Taking advantage of free advertising, Obama addressed thousands of voters on a level that was convenient; voters were able to access content anywhere and at any time.

“The 2008 US election proved to be important for the Democrats whose support base is younger.

“Obama’s brand is still clinging onto the idealistic notion of hope,” Scullion said. “Romney’s brand is less individualistic, celebrating conventional economic success and making the promise that voters could be lucky [in his America].”

But such efforts will not be new to American citizens. Throughout history, presidential candidates have built campaigns aiming to differentiate themselves from their competitors and convince voters to choose their plans for the country’s future. In the 1960’s, President John F. Kennedy pledged to restore America’s economic prosperity, while in the 1990’s, President Bill Clinton marketed a sense of economic stability.

As this US election comes to its climatic close, both Romney and Obama will be interested to see what impact, if any, their efforts have had on the electorate.

Only time will tell if their campaign branding was successful or not.