THE OBAMA BRAND
After months of waiting, political posturing and media dominance, the election is finally over and we have a result. The incumbent is returned, which is not only a first in terms of Barack Obama being the first African American president to be re-elected, he is also the first president since Franklin Roosevelt to be returned to power amidst such a bad economy. Until recently it could be argued that the Obama brand had lost its appeal by being seen as synonymous with economic failure, high unemployment and broken promises. Given that this was the longest and most expensive election campaign in history, I thought I would take a look at how the president’s party machine has managed his brand and ensured that its message of hope and confidence in the Democrats vision of a fairer more united America was the lasting impression in voters mind.

Branding and brand identity is as important to politician as it is to businesses. The American election has been one of the most debated topics for months, but what do people really talk about when they compare Romney to Obama? Do they talk about the candidates themselves? Or do they talk about the ideas that they deliver? When I see political debates, I see two brands in the same industry fighting for the same goal, which is TO SELL! What they sell is not a tangible product, but it is an idea. They are selling the same idea, to make America a better place, in a different manner.

WHAT IS A POLITICAL BRAND?
A political brand defines the transformation of a dull concept of politics into a visualized symbol. It needs not only to be appealing but also to be communicative. It is a marketing strategy that implements a perfect touch of art and the combination of the two makes the brand stronger than ever before. A political brand not only needs to be planned and implemented at the right time and place, but it also needs to be maintained to keep the idea alive. So that it could be sold over and over again.

THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE
Human actions are driven by emotions. So when it comes to political branding the skill is in creating a symbol that represents the ideology of the brand. This symbol is something that is easily remembered and signifies the story behind the creation of the brand. Here is where art meets marketing strategy in branding. It is the story that the brand communicates with its audience that puts one brand ahead of the others. Once the story has been told repeatedly, the story will become bigger than the brand itself. More than just reflecting the lifestyle or aesthetic of those who identify themselves with the brand, it also represents the value of life. The value that gives meaning to our existence, the value that we believe in and the value that drives us to do something. It is this message that is communicated through the symbol that makes one brand more attractive than another.

A PRESIDENT AS A BRAND
One of the more difficult things about branding a president is being able to speak to different people and connect them to your brand identity despite their individual beliefs and values. Hence, successful branding of a presidential candidate involves transforming an individual’s actions into something that can be sold to a mass-market. It’s about striking a balance between whom you really are and creating an impression in the minds of the voters so that you appear how people want to see you. Knowing your audience and positioning yourself in the market is crucial in the political world.

The presidential campaign is a great example of how this was achieved for the Obama brand. Obama’s simple, blue “O” logo represents a vision of America. It symbolizes hope, change and a new dawn. Clearly three things that Americans want as they offer a promise of a new land with a better and brighter future. Even though people might disagree with how the Obama camp planned to achieve this vision, it was difficult not to sign up to it. In the end, it boiled down to “did you trust Obama to deliver it, rather than was it something you didn’t want?”. Yet again, the Obama brand was able to capture the idea of positive change and make it synonymous with the president.

USING STORYTELLING TO SHARE AN IDEA OF POSITIVE CHANGE
Regardless of your political position, I encourage you to watch this video as it displays the power of storytelling to build a politician’s brand!

LESSONS FOR THE ENTREPRENEUR
What can the entrepreneur learn from political branding? While your brand needs to be targeted at your niche it is possible for your brand to symbolize beliefs and values that are more universal so you can connect with people to support, recommend or hire you.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR BRAND STAND OUT
Why is branding so important? Because your brand distinguishes you from other brands. It speaks to your audience about what you do and where you position yourself in the industry. It represents the idea behind the creation of your company and it tells your audience what you stand for and what you offer. If your audience can’t see the differences between you and your competitors, then they will have no real reason other than price to choose you over them. Sadly, someone will always be able to outdo you on just price!

For species such as gazelles, merging into the herd and not standing out is a good thing — it increases their chances of survival. However, unlike gazelles, entrepreneurs MUST stand out. Otherwise, they will never be known, recognized or remembered. And, these elements are all key to survival in business today.

SHARE YOUR STORY. MAKE NEW FRIENDS.
Branding yourself is a way of telling your audience who you are. If they like what they see, they will become your clients and your friends. Effective branding is when you communicate with your consumers and respond to their needs. Branding tells your story through a series of messages. Remember: these messages must be clear, relevant and memorable. Most importantly, they must be consistent with your overall desired perception or impression that you wish to create in the minds of your target audience. When you are congruent with your brand it is easier to maintain a consistent set of messages.

CRITERIA FOR DEVELOPING YOUR BRAND:
Making your brand stand out is much a science as an art. The art is ensuring that it reflects who you are and what you stand for authentically. The science is ensuring that it meets the following set of criteria:

  • Uniqueness: Brands need to look and feel unique both for the content and graphics in order to differentiate your brand from the competitors.
  • Memorable: The key to make your brand memorable is to be consistent, repetitive, clear, and meaningful. If you don’t send out the right messages, they will never know what you are trying to say to them.
  • Honesty: Branding is not about telling your audience what they want to hear. Rather, it is about living up to your promises. Whatever you tell them, you need to make sure you can live up to it.
  • Personality: Personality is an extra characteristic you add to the brand to make your brand more human — creating a sense of familiarity and trust. At the end of the day, people buy from people (NOT organizations).
  • Professionalism: Your brand and everyone on your team must appear professional to gain credibility and respects from the audience. Note: “professional” means different things to different people. For example, it would be considered “professional” for a businessman or financial consultant to dress in a suit or button-down shirts. Whereas, a yogi instructor might be more “professional” dressed in Lululemon gear.
  • Easily Relatable: The language that you use needs to be communicative and made understandable by your target audience and be in the language of their vernacular. If the message is not communicable, it doesn’t work.
Surprisingly, not everyone understands that audiences want to hear what businesses can do to solve their problems and that they understand their issues. They are not interested in you or what you think they want. Only once they are convinced that you understand them will they be open to hearing what you think and the idea behind your creation. Hence, by focusing on your audience your brand will stand out. So, listen to what your audiences have to say and then act on it so that they can see that their voice matters to you.

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