May 9, 2007
Presidential Candidates As Brand Names
Why is a presidential candidate like a box of Kellogg's® Corn Flakes®? Both of them are brands, and their names are their reputations.
Unlike cereal makers, however, candidates don’t get to choose their own brand names.
Few politicians are fortunate enough to be born with names that imply “great leader.” (One might make a stretch and associate Hillary Clinton with Sir Edmund Hillary, the man who climbed Mount Everest “Because it was there,” but Senator Clinton doesn’t appear to be doing so herself.)
Barack Obama, of course, has already had to deal with detractors playing on the likeness of his name to that of Osama Bin Laden. Nevertheless, his brand is strong with voters, according to Presidential Brands 2008, which scored both Democratic and Republican candidates according to familiarity, reputation, personality, performance, and connectivity. Download the complete report here.
According to the study:
- Hillary Clinton means “competence”
- Barak Obama means “celebrity” which ties in nicely with Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement
- John Edwards means “compassion”
- Rudy Giuliani is an American icon
- John McCain is an American hero
- Mitt Romney is an American idol
Or, to put it another way,
- Clinton is a Volvo station wagon
- Obama is a BMW Z4 convertible
- Edwards is a Prius
- Giuliani is a Toyota RAV4
- McCain is a Ford Pickup
- Romney is a Dodge Viper
Meanwhile, several candidates are buying Google AdWords campaigns by bidding on each other’s names. If you search for “Obama,” on Google, for example, you may find a voting poll for Hillary Clinton in 2008 in the right sidebar along with the ads paid for by Obama’s own campaign.
The biggest problem these candidates have to face in branding themselves isn’t their own names or their rivals’ AdWords campaigns.
It’s the negative associations that people have with the word “politician.”
Carla Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle Political Writer, researched candidates' websites and found that some of the qualities the top candidates are trying to associate with their names are in much the same way how a company brands a product:
- Hillary Rodham Clinton - Slogan: Leadership, experience, women's advocate, "making history."
- John Edwards - Slogan: "Change," big ideas, champion of the poor and middle class.
- Rudolph Giuliani - Slogan: "America's mayor," maverick, strong, decisive leader.
- John McCain - Slogan: "War hero," steadfast, independent, commitment, record of achievement.
- Barack Obama - Slogan: "Hope," change, action, fresh face.
- Mitt Romney - Slogan: "Bold, new leadership," business success, public achievement.
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