When reflecting on the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, it seems that he owes a substantial part of his success, not only to his message and promise of change, but also to something more understated. It was not simply the message, the man and the speeches that convinced democratic voters, but the way these elements were presented to the public using a meticulous branding strategy. Enter Brand Obama, a comprehensive assembly of fonts, logos, slogans and web and print design. President Obama was the first presidential candidate to have an all-encompassing marketing system, like a high-end consumer brand.
The first step for marketing Obama was coming up with a logo. With the philosophy that ‘The strongest logos tell simple stories,’ designer, Sol Sender, based the logo on the rising sun and a new day. Encapsulated in the ‘o’ of Obama’s name, “The sun rising over the horizon evoked a new sense of hope.” The path leading to the sunrise also references the stripes from the American flag. The delicate serif font used for the writing of the name ‘Obama’ is sophisticated and literary-looking yet conversational and pleasant.
The primary typeface used in all of Obama’s branded collateral is Gotham. It was chosen because it was sleek and unadorned but elegant. It is different to other sans serif fonts because it is not German, Swiss or French. It is, in fact, very American. Gotham was originally designed for American magazine, GQ.
The colour scheme to support the brand is primarily a deep blue, with highlights of the lighter blue and red found in the logo. White text is often reversed out of the blue, creating a clean, calm sense of well-being. The colours are obviously patriotic, but the way they are proportioned is what gives Brand Obama its point of difference. The extensive use of blue and the minimal highlights of red make the brand feel calm and passive as opposed to violent and forceful.
Sender and his team were required to come up with various design options for the logo to be considered for the campaign. These options got narrowed down to three. One involved photographic images appearing through an ‘o’ shape which was used as the letter ‘o’ for Obama and the number ‘0’ for 08. The other was a more cutesy design based on speech bubbles. While these designs had some good elements, they didn’t make the final cut, possibly because their underlying messages were not as strong or all-encompassing as the chosen design.
Conceivably the most pleasing application of Brand Obama is seen in the website. Soft gradients of deep blue dominate the design and give it an ethereal feel which reinforces the message of hope. The site is clean and offers the user very clear choices. Gotham is utilised for the headings and menu and the logo features as a prominent link to the home page. The ‘people’ section houses an innovative application of the logo, with a tailored version of the logo for each segment of people. The iterations are supported by detailed gradients and subtle background illustrations. Personalised typography for each heading is supported by the primary typeface, Gotham. The executions are quickly identifiable and show the brand’s connection with the relevant group of people. This playful flexibility develops Brand Obama’s relationship with its consumers, but without damaging the brand’s integrity.
THE OLD WEBSITE
Of course, the website didn’t always look like this. When the site was first launched in early 2007, the design was clean and easy to navigate. It emphasised the logo, but very few of the other branding elements. The colours were understated and the site was lacking in visual depth. By July, the site had developed lots of new features, for which there was no room. Thus, the site was crammed full of banners making it quite unorganised and confusing – not a great representation for Mr Obama. The new website employs the branding strategy much more effectively.
Brand Obama works so well because you can find it anywhere. A conscious effort to make the President as accessible as possible results in extensive brand exposure. You can find Obama on facebook, twitter, myspace, youtube and flickr. You can log on to ‘my.barackobama.com’ and find local events/groups or post blogs in support of Obama. You can get Obama on your mobile by texting ‘HOPE’ to the Obama hotline. Brand Obama really is everywhere.
It’s fair to say that Obama can attribute a good deal of his success to the quality of this branding. Utilising new media to market a consistent and effective branding strategy ensured that he was ultimately triumphant in communicating his message to the public.