Modern Branding

by digby

Here's a very interesting interview on the subject of the Obama campaign's masterful branding. I'd noticed the consistency of the fonts and the logos, but I didn't realize what the campaign was trying to convey with them and had no idea just how sophisticated it all was:

[W]atching Obamamania over the past few weeks, I've become convinced that there's something more subtle at work, too. It's not just the message and the man and the speeches that are swaying Democratic voters--though they are. It's the way the campaign has folded the man and the message and the speeches into a systemic branding effort. Reinforced with a coherent, comprehensive program of fonts, logos, slogans and web design, Obama is the first presidential candidate to be marketed like a high-end consumer brand.* And for folks who don't necessarily need Democratic social programs--upscale voters, young people--I suspect that the novel comfort of that brand affiliation contributes (however subconsciously) to his appeal.

Seeking expert opinion, I tested my hypothesis on leading graphic designer and critic Michael Bieruit, who was kind enough to dissect Obama's unprecedented branding campaign--and show me how it's helping his candidacy. Excerpts:


What do you see as the "philosophical implications," to use a highfalutin phrase, of Obama's design choices?

There are a couple of levels. There's the close-in parlor game you can play about what all these typefaces actually mean. Gotham was a typeface designed originally for GQ magazine, so it's a sleek, purposefully not fancy, very straightforward, plainspoken font, but done with a great deal of elegance and taste--and drawn from very American sources, by the way. Unlike other sans serif typefaces, it's not German, it's not French, it's not Swiss. It's very American. The serif font that he often uses to write Obama is delicate and nuanced and almost, not feminine exactly, but it's very literary-looking. It looks very conversational and pleasant, as opposed to strident and yelling. It's a persuasive-looking font, I would say. But that's putting these things on couches and pretending they have personalities

The Republicans have been better than Democrats for years at branding and marketing. I'm sure you all recognize this:

But it looks like the Dems have finally caught up. They are taking a different tack, as they should have been doing all along, and appealing to more modern images and styles.

Marketing rules our culture, politics included. I don't know if it will work to win over enough of the public to get "market share" --- advertisers and marketers never do until they put it to the test. But the Democrats are finally playing in the same arena, and combined with a charismatic candidate, this could go a long way.