Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Presidential Branding

The Obama Sunrise logo

It's primary Tuesday in the District and Maryland. Despite all of the partisan squabble that perforates decency and punctuates the need for candidates to discuss how they would actually handle the issues with realistic and measurable solutions, in this election cycle one thing seems to have improved slightly over past years: the branding. For the past few decades the bumper stickers and buttons of hopeful public stewards have been predominantly limited to visual references of Old Glory - stars and bars - sometimes quite literally as evidenced by Sam Brownback's presidential bid in 2008. Others have manipulated elements of it, like Huckabee in '08, or like Pawlenty in '11, whose design was complicated by a hint of Lady Liberty.

The big iconic shift in presidential branding happened in 2008 with the Obama sunrise logo. The genius behind the log was how it repurposed the bar, bending a blue bar into the top half of an O, and the remaining bars into a bending road or the rows of a farm field. It also signaled the messaging of the campaign by depicting the hope brought with the sunrise of a new day. However this was not the first time a president had been reduced to a branded image. Some campaign paraphernalia for Obama's predecessor had reduced the Bush 43 to a single letter, a W.

All of this year's challenging contenders have learned something from the visual playbook of the incumbent, albeit conservatively. The stripe still dominates. Red and white stripes billow under the name Newt. They also got squeezed across the cross bar of Bachmann's H, and explode from a vanishing point over the crossbar of Paul's A. Stripes area also visible in the Romney R, like a billowing flag from the Netherlands.

Jon Huntsman took the page from the Bush branding and reduced his name to the fractured H, which looked more like cast off typography from the Avaya branding campaign. More dynamic have been the Cain torch and the Santorum eagle. The torch of Liberty has been the most intriguing of devices applied to campaign branding this season, but unfortunately it held no reference to the candidate the way a Stetson did for LBJ in '64, a hole in the shoe did for Adlai Stevenson in '52 and '56, or the way a sunflower did for Alf Landon in '36. It also failed to integrate within the name of the candidate the way Santorum's eagle freely glides past the O of stars.

Despite integrating with the name, Santorum's design possesses two conflicts.  First is the eagle. While symbolically the flying eagle suggests freedom, previous candidates (Wallace in '72 and '76, and Romney in '08) have only used the head of the eagle. It could be because an eagle body gets a little difficult to persuade into a design - and the soaring eagle in Santorum's design does a fair job of it. However, full-span eagles with rigid design can also be erroneously associated with the perched eagle of the National Socialist German Workers Party. Who would want that? (It would take away any credibility of comparing Obama to Hitler.) Of bigger curiosity is the significance of the seemingly arbitrary 22 stars. Santorum is from the 2nd state in the union, not Alabama, the 22nd. Does it represent the 22 states that pushed for legislation restricting voting rights by pushing photo I.D. requirements at polling places, or perhaps it is a reference to the 22nd Amendment? When the design is vague it is at best a visual accent, like an underline. But when the content possesses symbolism - like a torch or an eagle - and is repeated - like a star - it needs some added context to justify its placement, otherwise it is irrelevant cuteness, like a bow on a shoe.

The push in design hasn't trickled down well into local politics, at least not well in DC. Most candidates seem to revitalize their old color schemes and design, like Delano Hunter in Ward 5 who has recycled his green and yellow postage stamp poster from previous years. Eleanor Homes Norton has tacked the dome of the capital onto her yard signs. The only innovative branding approach has been Teri Galvez's pink elephant, which signifies one of two things, either she is a Republican that treads through cliched depictions of femininity, or I'm drinking too much. (Everywhere I go I see pink elephants!)

With any luck, in future years the branded identities of politicians will get better and better. And, if the issues of campaign reform have been any indication, maybe we'll see some cross over. Perhaps a politician will wear a jump suit covered in logos like a Nascar driver, and we'll be able to see the various sponsors that have contributed to the campaign. Or, better still, since corporations are people too, maybe well-branded corporations will run in future years.


Superb Jon said...

Santorum prefers Obama to Romney because Obama was raised by a Catholic grandmother. Vatican Osservatore Romano editor Vian said on May 18th that Obama "is not a pro-abortion president" - proves stand to encourage Catholics to breed and to encourage non-Catholics to abort out of spite. The Vatican likes the abortion status quo in the USA for this reason. Their purpose is only conquest, not faith. Carolignian Brzezinski spawned Zia al Haq, Khomeini, and bin Laden - breaks up superpowers via Aztlan and Kosovo as per Joel Garreau's Nine Nations. Brzezinski, Buckley and Buchanan winked anti-Semitic votes for Obama, delivered USA to Pope's feudal basket of Bamana Republics. Michael Pfleger and Joe Biden prove Obama is the Pope's boy. Obama is half a Kearney from County Offaly in Ireland. Talal got Pontifical medal as Fatima mandates Catholic-Muslim union against Jews (Francis Johnson, Great Sign, 1979, p. 126), Catholic Roger Taney wrote Dred Scott decision. John Wilkes Booth, Tammany Hall and Joe McCarthy were Catholics. Now Catholic majority Supreme Court. Catholics Palmisano, Grasso, Damato, Langone, Mozilo, Ranieri, Dioguardi, Palmieri destroyed American industry with their casuistrous ethics. Subprime construction mobsters had hookers deliver mortgages to banks. McCain's Keeting started it all. Brzezinski set up Arab Spring and Zia, so why surprised bin Laden was in Sineurabia code? Pakistanis descend from weasels who sold their Hindu brothers into hundreds of years of islamic slavery. That is why FIAT supplied Iran and every Catholic is like a Manchurian Candidate programmed to kill their best friend of they felt the "Holy Father" required it. They find American cars too advanced to use or their mechanics to fix. Ellis Island Popecrawlers brought in FDR. Since Pio Nino banned voting they consider our Constitution and laws immoral and illegitimate and think nothing of violating them or passing legislation that undermine them. They believe that they can not be fully loyal to their superiors if they do not go the extra stretch and break the law intentionally. Their slovenly, anti-intellectual work ethic produces vacuous, casuistrous blather and a tangle of hypocritical, contradictory regulations. Their clubhouse purges provided praetorian training for corporate misgovernance. They sided with the enemy in both World Wars and now, too. Every American boom has been caused by an Evangelical Revival and every major Depression by the domination of new Catholic immigrants. NYC top drop outs: Hispanic 32%, Black 25%, Italian 20%. NYC top illegals: Ecuadorean, Italian, Polish. Ate glis-glis but blamed plague on others, now lettuce coli. Their bigotry most encouraged terror yet they reap most security funds. View this life as casuistry training to survive purgatory. Rabbi circumcises lower, Pope upper brain. Tort explosion by glib casuistry. Hollywood Joe Kennedy had Bing Crosby proselytize. Bazelya 1992 case proves PLO-IRA-KLA links. Our enemy is the Bru666elles Sineurabia feudal Axis and the only answer is alliance with Israel and India. They killed six million Jews, a million Serbs, half a million freemasons, a quarter million Gypsies, they guided the slaughter of Assyrians and Armenians, and promoted the art of genocide throughout the world now they are relentless in their year to canonize nazi pope. 9/11 was Yugo Crimean blowback: Napoleon started the crusade against the Photius Heresy to avenge his uncle, Clinton wanted to cover Pacelli's war crimes. They had no qualms hijacking American policy in Vietnam or Balkans to papal ends, but when American interests opposed those of the papacy in Iraq and Iran, they showed their true fangs (Frum, Unpatriotic Conservatives).

johnjamesanderson said...

I feel like I just got spammed, and your conspiracy-theory-laden comment makes me remember why I want to prohibit comments.

The Santorum bit - which is mostly poking fun through interpreting design (like we interpret art) - says nothing about his Catholicity.

This is not a policy issue. This is a design issue. Designs are getting better during this round of politicking, but it is still rather conservative.