Friday, April 4, 2008

The Obama brand

A friend pointed me to a Brian Collins interview in Wednesday's New York Times that praised "Barack Obama’s sophisticated typographical design scheme." In Collins' words:

[T]he Obama campaign really stands out. From the bold “change” signs to their engaging Web site to their recognizable lapel pins, they’ve used a single-minded visual strategy to deliver their campaign’s message with greater consistency and, as a result, greater collective impact.
The NYT piece follows a March 30 Los Angeles Times story that says each campaign has done well, stating that "Clinton's friendly serif, McCain's classic Optima and Obama's newcomer Gotham are [all] on message." But according to Collins, Obama is the hands-down choice--not just from a typography standpoint, but when it comes to his campaign's overall brand:
Barack Obama is running the first real transmedia campaign of the 21st century. His people not only understand how media has splintered, but how audiences have splintered, too. Cell phones, mobile devices, Web sites, e-mail, social networks, iPods, laptops, billboards, print ads and campaign events are now just as important as television. The senator’s design strategy has given these diverse platforms (and their different audiences) a coherence that makes them all work together. I’ve worked with giant, global corporations who don’t do it this well.
This integration gives Obama a significant edge, but his campaign enjoys some other benefits from a branding perspective. First, he's doing well with young voters, over whom branding has the greatest influence. What they lack in money they make up for in incredibly large, viral social networks, and they have the most diverse media consumption habits as well. They also know technology, and use it well in communicating messages that they believe in. That makes Obama seem omnipresent, at least among voters under 40.

Another thing about those young voters--they generally like great design. And when your brand has a strong visual message, your audience is much more likely to share it, wear it, and display it. One example: I was walking down Wayne St. today, and there was a large, Shepard Fairey-designed "Hope" banner on the east side of one of the buildings. And my first thought--the same thought I have every time I see it--is how striking it is. Now I think the comparisons to Soviet-style icongraphy are accurate, which makes it a risk, but the fact that first-run "Hope" posters are selling for $1,500 on eBay indicates that it's hitting a nerve.

Sure, fonts by themselves don't win elections, and neither does great design. But strong branding can impact a
political campaign in the same way it impacts consumer preference. JFK understood this. Reagan got it, too. We can debate whether or not that's a good thing, but it sure isn't going to change anytime soon.

1 comment:

USpace said...

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So many talented artists for Obama. His 'Change', 'Hope' and 'Progress' mantras are actually somewhat self-mocking. Making your own Obama posters is totally addicting, I laughed so hard I almost had a breakdown. LOL!
:)
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absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
always hope for hope

push for change at all costs
change can never be bad

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absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
only feel and hope

please make people change
change can only be good

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Make Some Obama Posters NOW!
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Appeasement Talk Bothers Appeasers
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Help Halt Terrorism Now!
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USpace

:)
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