Monday, June 9, 2008

The branding of Barack Obama and John McCain

Both presumptive Presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain have an appeal that extends beyond the political realm and into popular culture. Despite his age (72, born 1936) McCain has a unique connection with popular culture having been invited to guest host SNL in 2002 and being a frequent guest on the Daily Show (a record 13 and counting).

Obama is no slouch either, his image is featured in all forms of creative expression from music, art to fashion. Barack is also Hollywood favourite, it's not entirely surprising being the Democratic nominee as John Kerry similarly had a lot of celebrity endorsements in 2004. Though it can be argued Kerry was only popular as an alternative to Bush and the figurehead for the Democrats rather than possessing any unique appeal.

Whilst John Kerry's election bid was assisted by celebrity-driven initiatives like 'Rock the Vote', Fat Mike's 'PunkVoter' and Puffy's 'Vote or Die'. Barack has inspired campaigns of creative expression like Will.I.Am's 'Yes We Can', a song comprised of Obama speech soundbites echoed by a gallery of celebrities. He has inspired art, with street artists like Shepard Fairey and Scott Hansen donating Obama pieces to raise funds for the campaign after initially spreading it autonomously. Barack has also become a fashion icon, it isn't surprising to see paparazzi snaps of celebrities wearing Obama T-Shirts. You won't need to look too far to find Obama inspired Tees.

barack obama art shirtsUsually Politicians referenced on t-shirts are cheeky or protests, rarely will they be earnest endorsements. I referenced in a previous post that its not often you'll find photorealistic shirts with general adult appeal.

While Obama's image has had success resonating with the masses John McCain has struggled. He has an appealing narrative, a war hero with a 'Never say Die' spirit and arguably a more affable personality but McCain is weak on the mic. No real shame there as Obama is a uniquely gifted political speaker. McCain does have the ability to win over smaller pools of people with his humor and accessibility just not in the stadium sweeping fashion Obama does.

john mccain logo brandingIn fact this is a telling McCain weakness. McCain is better as a small-outfit insurgent candidate, he isn't known for his ability to coordinate large campaign organism the way Obama does - The marketing, the street team, promotions. Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone has an interesting piece on the Schizophrenic McCain identity
- The Branding of John McCain.

I encourage you to read the post along with the comments. Poster John Lemmings makes a poignant point that possibly indicts this post and my blog:
This is completely laughable, coming from and being associated with what is usually a somewhat respectable and well done publication (Rolling Stone)...

Rolling Stone, do a review of what your staffers are putting online. Viable political discussion is great to see, but this amateur content that would not even be viewed on someone’s livejournal is simply a joke.

Obama is just another candidate, playing the same political game that McCain is, not some magical revolutionary who is going to hug the world and make it a happy place. The fight is going to come down to real issues, not the colors of a website which will be viewed by a minority of the overall voting populace. Obama supporters trying to stroke the ego of other diehard Obama supporters is fruitless, give us real substance!

No comments: