I can’t think of a more exciting way to start the new year than with the Iowa Caucuses. As a student of brands, I have always paid close attention to the marketing of political candidates and/or the lack thereof. It seems as if many candidate handlers try to sell the person, not the person’s views. It’s therefore hard today to compare candidates and see notable differences. There are some grays, but no real policy differences. (Edwards today, declared he would have us out of Iraq in 10 months. That’s a difference, but it is one of a fading candidate.)
If all candidates have similar views on healthcare, global warming, conservation, immigration and Iraq, then on what are we to judge them?
In brand building you create a single position or promise for the brand and then array beneath it key supports. In candidate building, few want to stand for one thing — they want to stand for everything. What’s left on the table for the people to judge is then solely the candidate’s TV persona. That’s what many in America vote for. Who in the debates made the most sense and looked most comfortable? Who acted presidential? Who seemed the smartest? It becomes about the person, not the policy.
If one managed a brand the way candidates are managed the whole store would be filled with generics. The best candidates stand for something. Let’s see if anyone steps up?