The Branding of Political Campaigns

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 14+ years in and around politics, it’s that nothing is done by accident. Like the big Madison Avenue PR agencies, a campaign’s image and message is (usually) expertly crafted to resonate with 50% +1 of the voting electorate.

The goal is to win, and in order to do that the campaign must brand itself with an appealing – yet accessible – image: the brand is the candidate and the candidate is the brand.

A lot of time and energy goes in to the branding of a candidate. People need to feel like they know this person – they can relate to this person – this person is like me, and by extension, this person understands me and will best represent me. There has to be a connection between candidate and voter.

Accessibility is only one part of the political brand. The colors used in the logo, to the clothing worn in the official portrait, none of it “just happens”.  Each is selected for the symbolism it conveys. There’s a reason Republicans use mainly use red and blue, and Democrats use blue and green. Red is seen as more conservative and green as more progressive. Thus, the colors reinforce the brand.

Simply creating a look and feel is not enough. The brand must be reinforced through every delivery mechanism possible. No piece of mail, handouts, phone calls, web ads or tv ads are created that do not support the brand of the candidate.

A great example of a political brand is Obama For America. They created a clear and accessible brand that resonated with more people than either McCain or Romney. Voters connected with and felt like they knew Obama better. He was someone you could identify with. And the logo they created literally and figuratively looked towards the horizon – reinforcing their brand of “Hope & Change”.

As campaigns become more and more sophisticated, the branding of campaigns will continue to mirror that of a major corporation. Nothing is done by accident.

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Serenety Hanley is Founder of @TheSocialShack, a social media consulting firm that works with political and non-profit brands. She’s the Former White House Internet Director and original GOP team leader.