The News & Observer (
January 8, 2008) recently published a negative article about branding in the political arena, “Choosy voters choose to go beyond branding.” It’s about the “fusion of ‘branding’ and politics that characterizes not only the way candidates and consultants pitch campaigns to the public, but also the way many of us now see public life.” The author calls this fusion “branditics.”
The author argues that “branditics” reduces the complexity of politics to simplistic messages, and says “Brands work better in grocery stores than in the White House.”
The writer understands branding well: It is indeed “the process of taking something on a shelf or in an office park and transforming it into an emotional experience that pulls us in, makes us believe, inspires us to buy. A strong brand captures, compresses and conveys an organization's values, the promise of its products and the guarantee of a consistent customer experience.”
However, he does not believe that potential presidents should be sold like “cans of Coke.” He does not believe that we should be content with oversimplified labels such as “security” for Giuliani, “competency” for
The problem, he says, is that branding closes off choices for the candidates whereas they need “room to maneuver,” to be flexible.
I have to disagree with this author. I think the candidates, particularly Obama, Clinton, and Giuliani, are doing a great job branding themselves for public consumption. In an election where it is sometimes hard to tell apart the candidates’ positions on complex issues, we need a shortcut that helps us define who we may be voting for. Branding doesn’t close off choices for the candidates, it merely encapsulates exactly who they are, what they value, what they promise to the American people, and how they will make that experience consistent.
Related to this is the question of “rebranding
Any way you look at it, branding is really critical right now in the