How politicians are branded & promoted

Mitt Romney’s campaign wanted the stage for the Republican convention to convey warmth and openness, just like Oprah. Add to that endorsements from a devoted wife, a former Secretary of State and a Hollywood star and his likeability was improved. Watch this really short New York Times video on how it was done:

Does Mitt Romney stand for empathy? And is he the devoted family man his 63 year old wife Ann fondly talks about? Impossible to know for the majority of voters. But that’s what the design studio that also creates sleek sets for Oprah Winfrey succeeded in conveying.

Slick packaging is what it’s all about

Kissing and hugging husband and wife and eye candy the audience can consume. Romney’s advisers carefully scripted and staged the set and program for the Republican National Convention with the aim of accomplishing what a year of campaigning has failed to do and make Mitt Romney appear like God’s gift to America. Even to the extent of embracing his Mormon faith.

According to a Reuters poll taken after the convention his likeability increased, at least temporarily, among US voters. But do this kind of slickness really make the majority of people vote for a candidate? According to the poll so far it has not. Do videos of him playing with his five sons make him the perfect president of the United States? Another odd aspect was that  as a rule people are supportive of members of their family battling diseases. If Mitt Romney had not been he would be an exception to the rule. But considering that US voters did not like him conveying such messages do make sense.

Why Condi?

Associations are part of the branding. Romney hence keeps on mentioning Ronald Reagan to be associated with the still hugely popular former president. George W. Bush however, is rarely mentioned and when he is it’s in relation to tax cuts.

Endorsements are a part of promoting a candidate. But I am not sure why Condoleeza Rice was the only Bush administration official that talked at the convention? Presumably because of all Romney’s foreign policy missteps? But having Cory give a speech is still odd considering that she and Romney have completely different ideas regarding many aspects of foreign policy.

Saying the right things is also important. “A free world is a more peaceful world,” Romney argued at the convention, and added, “This is the bipartisan foreign-policy legacy of Truman and Reagan. And under my presidency we will return to it once again.” Interesting considering that Truman is the only president ever to have used the atomic bomb. Besides I am not sure what those words really mean? But maybe it doesn’t matter since the audience cheered loudly.

Sold just like candy

All politicians world-wide are branded and promoted like a new hair gel or Hollywood star. Romney is just a recent example of the huge amount of money and effort being used to get a politician elected. It goes on all over the world but in the US it’s a bit more showbiz and slick than elsewhere. It’s not a coincidence that Clint Eastwood was a guest star.

Maybe Samuel Popkin, political scientist and author of “The Candidate: What it Takes to Win – and Hold – The White House”, is right when he says that Americans don’t need to love Romney, only be comfortable with him and believe he knows what he is doing.

Will the convention go down in history as the moment Mitt Romney started his march to The White House? A multitude of opinions have been voiced. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Well, we will find out. If Mitt Romney’s image makers succeed in making people not only like him more but vote for him, he may become the next president of The United States.

Does this kind of branding and promotion really lay out the arguments for why Barack Obama has failed and why Mitt Romney would do better?  Or is it over the top to have Condoleeza Rice state that Romney/Ryan is the answer to  America’s problems? Not least since she and Romney have different stands when it comes to controversial issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Doesn’t it matter that Romney, long after the end of the cold war, still regards Russia as the biggest geopolitical problem facing the US? Do we really want our politicians to be branded and promoted like talk show hosts? Isn’t it dangerous to concentrate on superficial issues instead of what really matters to America and the world? 

Video: The New York Times – You Tube

20 thoughts on “How politicians are branded & promoted

  1. Yes cararina, i think citizen votes power should be different according to you education and ability to understand ideology and not a brand.
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  2. As a former top campaign aide to a United States Senator, U.S. Congressman and a state governor with a national profile, I've had the opportunity to manage the social media accounts of these individuals as well as serve as a ghost-writer and occasional ghost-blogger from time-to-time.

    For anyone wondering, the politicians themselves never even look at their social accounts unless the campaign worker managing them does something stupid. You're not really sending a tweet to your Congressman or Senator, just a twenty-something campaign staffer who doesn't much care about whatever you have to say.

    I know this is really not all that relevant to the post itself, but I thought it worthy of mentioning that very few actually do monitor their own online accounts. The only politician who holds national office that I know of who actually personally writes his own Facebook updates, tweets and replies to constituent questions and comments is Rep. John Fleming, MD (R-LA). Congressman Fleming is not one of the elected officials for whom I have been employed, for what it's worth, although I do know him reasonably well and have a very high opinion of him — especially for someone with his job title.
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  3. The reason it's all about image, is because the audience is ignorant of the basics of differing economic philosophies, and how each effects their life and liberties. Why are they ignorant? Because they were not educated on the basic subjects of economics (that includes money for that matter). Who's in charge of education? The so called "progressive" democratic party.

    It's not a mistake these things are not taught. For if they were, the amount of campaign cash one candidate had over another or image building would not play such a major role; logic and reasoning would be the playing field instead. And if logic and reason were the playing field instead, the public would easily see the manipulation of so called "compassionate laws" as simply redistribution of money and power, an effort at greater dependency on the state…and ultimately just away to secure the politicians gravy train position in elite power.

    There is a vested interest in keeping you ignorant. So on with the show and let the best image win!

    1. Thank you for conveying your opinion, Thinker. Don't forget that politicians are branded and promoted all over the world. It started when JFK was elected and after that emotional voting was exported and gradually became the norm all over the world.

  4. Great Article, Catarina.

    It has been the image for quite a while now. Nixon's blue-jowl, Kennedy's Boston accent. Mike Dukakis standing on a box to make him taller during the debates or driving around in a National Guard tank to make him look militaristic.

    A few years back I ran an internet campaign for local elective office. I campaigned against, "Cigar chomping party bosses in smoke-filled back rooms and Derby hats." The image I wanted to convey? The incumbents were of the ilk of Boss Tweed and the corruption of Tammany Hall.

    (I really didn't have my heart in it.) Still, it was interesting giving a few campaign speeches and having an article about me published in the local paper.


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  5. Politicians will continue to brand themselves. After all a leader holding a little kid, while on a campaign, or shaking hands with an elderly man, or wheeling a physically disabled person, or even planting a tree enables them to be seen as they want the world to see them. When it comes to actually voting, I do hope the public, world over can see through such 'branding campaigns' and vote for that party/person whom they feel will serve them best.
    Incidentally, I just read and reviewed a political thrilled. Cheers.
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    1. Lubna, politicians use professional image makers to brand them. Having worked with a multitude of politicians all over the world I can guarantee you that most of them would not be able to do what their image makers do for them. Unfortunately I believe the majority of the people in the world vote for the brand and have no idea what the politicians stand for. When it comes to voting for whom they feel with serve them best that's where cheap buss tickets and other such populistic ideas come in. The problem with that could be that long term they will not even be able to pay their buss faires:-).

  6. Branding of politicians seems to be a necessity these days and it also happens or at least they try in my country as well which is strange as we vote for parties and not the individual.

    Do you know if these conventions have any real impact on those who actually vote? I read somewhere that Condi came out a few weeks ago saying she was going to vote for Romney so it isn't really a surprise she appeared and gave a speech.

    As an aside I am glad our elections only last about 6 weeks as I don't think the Australian public could go the distance.
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    1. Yes Susan it's necessary for a politician to be branded and promoted to get elected. The majority of people vote for the brand and not the person and what he/she stands for. They don't even know that. Anything populistic will do the trick. Remember when Ken Livingstone was elected mayor of London by promising to lower the price of buss faires. From what I understand the Republican party is really split. But despite that they round up around Romney since they desparately want to get back into power. Even when they, like Condi, stand for different policies.

  7. Catarina — Mitt Romney achieved his primary goal of appearing more approachable and likeable. But what happens "off camera" is equally important. The camera panned to him in the audience watching the other speakers and he sat there like a sphinx, never smiling. The camera also caught him placing is hand on his wife to stop her from standing to applaud Gov. Chris Christie. When you're a politician or public figure you are always on camera and the microphone is always open for a careless remark that will convey more about who you really are than any scripted performance.
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  8. Thank you for conveying your opinion Pranay. Just wish to point out that the video and article is not about politicians endorsing brands but politicians being branded, which is different.

  9. You're right about the importance of branding, Catarina and it seems to me that the Republicans are still looking for a clear brand to centre the election around. Hence the somewhat mixed metaphors and endorsements. As Pat Weber says earlier, it will be interesting to see what happens during the debates and whether the brand will become more clear.

  10. We do know how to put on a show when it comes to our presidential elections. In the past few elections, and now this one, it has been an orchestration of images rather than substance. Sadly that exists because some can't/won't look beyond the projected and orchestrated image. Then they are disillusioned and angry when that individual does deliver on what they perceive as the real thing.

    Others, however, will do their best to look behind the curtain to gain a sense of what the candidate really stands or and who they are as individuals. The truth is no one individual or leader can solve our problems. It will take cooperation and a consortium of thinkers to get us through the challenges we face nationally and globally.

    From our most recent political wrangling it would appear that there is a mind set that if "you don't think my way then you're wrong". They/we need to remove the hubris that has existed on both sides of the aisle. That needs to be reconciled first before any real change can occur.

    The next president, be it Obama or Romney, (it makes no difference) will be faced with an even greater challenge if that is not a mind set of both parties. To me, that is the largest and the most overwhelming challenge facing the leadership in our country. Just my thoughts… 🙂
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    1. Good points Susan. You are so right that the two parties need to start cooperating to get results and deliver what voters want. Sadly the opposite has been going on for the last couple of years.

  11. Pat, do you know or believe that Romney is an introvert and Obama an ambivert? Would be interesting to know.

    Agree with you that debates are more interesting and tells you more about a person. But still unfortunately the brand and promotion is the most important. How many people understand the difference between say, implementing the economic principles of Keynes, Smith or Friedman? Many haven't even heard of the three economists.

  12. Welcome to the world of American politics. It's another sound bite to follow another sound bite and make it look like you want it. I watch them to see what over the top things each will do to win votes. Personally I look at their platform and then decide. Most people I know look only at those things that stand out as meaningful to them and do not look at the whole package. There are lots of promises made that cannot possibly be fulfilled. I have no doubt that many mean them when they say them, but the reality hits the minute they take office. That's when they realize that our system is broken and no matter what they promised they cannot achieve it. I know what I sound like when I say these things. Unfortunately it is simple truth. Too much money is spent on elections and not enough on actually doing something constructive. My two cents…
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    1. Glad we agree Cheryl. The same thing goes on world-wide but the US takes the prize since there are too many special interests and even more money is being spent on getting elected.

      Love what you say that many of them mean what they promise but once they take office reality hits and they discover it cannot be done. That is so true.

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