There’s no two ways about it; politics and branding are made for each other.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a poster, a TV spot or a viral video of a pizza maker hugging the incumbent President; everything that has to do with the up and coming US Presidential Election is planned, orchestrated, tested, implemented and constantly refined, just like any branding campaign would be.
Candidates speak on issues and topics that they think will best influence the vote, positioning themselves in clearly defined niches to appeal to the segment of the electorate they think will help take them all the way to the top. From healthcare to bailouts to foreign policy, allying with the right cause has been proven to sway sentiment, and therefore the direction of votes.
The budgets are over the top; estimated election spending is expected to reach an all-time high of USD9.8 billion, with millions spent on media buying alone. That’s a lot of slickly produced TV commercials, propaganda campaigns and high-frequency, thinly-veiled character assassination and mudslinging, that is, “dramatic story-telling”.
And then there’s everyone’s favourite “new” toy; social media. If the US Presidential Election was based on Twitter followers alone, President Obama would be a shoo-in for a second term; his 12.5 million followers far outnumber Mitt Romney’s 350,000. He has been “speaking” to his followers since they helped tip the vote in his favour in the last election, so he also has a head-start in terms of social media as an engagement platform for his fans and constituents. Add to that the damning videos of Mitt Romney leaked on YouTube where he seemingly offends everyone from Palestinians and welfare claimants to roughly 47% of the American population, and it looks as if the unstoppable power of the web might be the deciding factor on Super Tuesday.
But like how individuals choose one brand over another and rabidly defend their choices come what may, people will endorse the candidate that makes them feel best about themselves, and overlook even glaringly obvious flaws as long as that candidate fulfills or matches some important aspects of their belief system.
At the end of the day, the candidate who prevails is likely the one who seems to be telling the more compelling truth (or story) most consistently, and in the most relevant, clear and understandable manner.
It just goes to show that we buy what we like and what we believe in, whether it’s a mobile phone… or the next President.
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