Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Marketing and its relevancy to the presidential campaign

Packaging, logos, spin and branding have become industries, often at the expense of content, and I worry that much of the strategy is wasted on me because I think I'm less visually oriented than others. I’ve been buying the same deodorant since I started needing deodorant, okay it’s Ban, and the change in bottles and packaging meant nothing until this moment, when I first gave it thought. I don't remember when they changed to green bottles, but it was very likely researched at great expense and found to communicate, “this will keep you cool and mint-like”, though to me it's meaningless. I buy exactly the same amount as I did before the change.

There's no time better than a presidential campaign to consider, if not mistrust, images. Is a red tie worn by a candidate calculated to appeal to red states? Is the bracelet on Clinton’s wrist a signal to those who wear “I’m supporting Lance Armstrong or breast cancer” jewelry? I have no non-profit jewelry and though I recognize yellow and pink, the others remain a mystery.

Logos are big business and so are fonts, which are carefully selected to convey an image with focus groups being queried at length before these all-important decisions are made. Even so, I give more thought to the content of my writing and am fine with the top font on the list, Times New Roman, which is clear and easy enough to read for those of us moving from a 2 correction to 2.5. I occasionally switch to bold or italic for the sake of emphasis or to be grammatically correct.

I’m as suspicious as the next voter, maybe more. Is Michelle Obama’s carping about her husband a strategy to attract the votes of angry wives? That's probably a sizable block. Can we expect to see Judith Giuliani pass through the hands of an image consultant and emerge with a softened face, flaunting photos of Rudy's kids and confining herself to one airplane seat? Or is she actually an asset for getting to second/third, fourth and fifth wives who hate a guy's past entanglements? Is Hillary’s necklace picked by a committee? Will John Edwards go to a cheap barber to prove he can get support even with a generic hair cut?

Is a candidate's message valid, or is that, too, vetted by the branding team, who breaks it down for us into pre-chewed, sound bytes? If that’s the case, the only reliable factors are a candidate's record and experience, which requires we do the research and trust ourselves. It’s hard enough picking deodorant and toilet paper, let alone a president.

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