Mne political branding

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The 2012 presidential election cycle is just starting to pick up steam and with his 2% rating in
national polls, it’s safe to say that only the most ardent political watchers have Republican
candidate Jon Huntsman on their radar. Huntsman’s campaign staff is aiming to change that,
however, with a branding campaign that The Wall Street Journal likens to that of a Ralph Lauren
product launch.

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Mne political branding

  1. 1. Why Politics and Marketing Go Hand in HandBy Christine Birkner, staff writercbirkner@ama.orgThe 2012 presidential election cycle is just starting to pick up steam and with his 2% rating innational polls, it’s safe to say that only the most ardent political watchers have Republicancandidate Jon Huntsman on their radar. Huntsman’s campaign staff is aiming to change that,however, with a branding campaign that The Wall Street Journal likens to that of a Ralph Laurenproduct launch.Huntsman’s campaign includes a simple “H” logo reminiscent of President Obama’s “O”; aslogan, “Generation H”; and a website that emphasizes the “H” theme, with sections called HTVand the Daily HBlog, and campaign videos that emphasize both Huntsman’s foreign policyexperience as U.S. ambassador to China and his love of rock and roll and motorcycles.Marketing experts say that Huntsman’s focus on branding is no surprise because modern politicsand branding have been tightly linked as far back as the 1960s with the election of John F.Kennedy. “Politicians have always been accused of trying to sell themselves like soap, so this isnot new,” says Harris Diamond, CEO of New York-based PR firm Weber Shandwick, who hasworked on U.S. gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns. But whether you’re marketing acandidate or a consumer brand, there has to be substance behind the flash, Diamond says.“Today you have a much more knowledgeable consumer base, just as you have a moreknowledgeable electorate,” he says. “You have a tremendous sense of skepticism. It’s no longerenough to say, ‘new and improved.’ Now we’ll ask, what’s new and what’s been improved?[Consumers or voters] are going to say, ‘Why is this important to me?’ ”According to Diamond, while Huntsman and his fellow candidates are focusing on creating flashybrands, they might be talking to too small of a segment of the electorate. “The danger to them isthat that small sliver is not necessarily broad enough and it’s boxed them into positions that thegeneral electorate might have a lot of difficulty with,” he says. “A brand is successful [when] itmakes a promise to somebody. For politicians, their brand also has to make a promise. Justputting somebody out and saying, ‘I’m young and hip,’ that’s not necessarily what anybody isvoting for. I don’t know anybody who voted for Barack Obama just because he was young andhip.”Gene Grabowski, senior vice president at Washington-based Levick Strategic Communications, afirm that specializes in public affairs and reputation management, says that while blendingbranding with substance is necessary in politics, branding usually wins. “If you have onlysubstance but no means to market your candidate, you will fail. If you have just the brand and nosubstance, you are likely to fail but not guaranteed to fail. Branding is essential; it is politicstoday.” He adds that the multimillion-dollar price tags that come with presidential andcongressional campaigns have risen over the years because of the need for branding and to getmessages out consistently with enough repetition through advertising and online efforts.Marketing News Exclusives August 4, 2011
  2. 2. Like any other brand marketers looking to garner consumers’ interest, politicians should take acue from the leading consumer brand, Apple, and design attractive, relatable, authentic brandattributes, Diamond says. “[Consumers] think what [Apple] gives them is cutting-edge. Politiciansneed that same type of thought process to take place. Politicians have to come up with attributesso that people can say, ‘He believes in the same things I believe in, he shares my concerns, hisvalues are similar.’ ”For more on marketing’s role in politics and elections, read the Marketing News article “Marketerin Chief,” available on MarketingPower.com.Marketing News Exclusives August 4, 2011

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