Political strategists often debate the ins and outs of creating a positive brand identity for any candidate for public office. This is more important than appearance, communication or background. What the voters look for is a belief system that can be quantified into a nutshell like “conservative” or liberal” so they know at a glance if they want to know more. As a campaign manager, I know the political landscape is complex requiring specific knowledge of the system and how to convey specific qualities to stir public interest. It is a kind of selling, in effect, not that different from the work that a salesman does with helping their customer with choosing the right vacuum cleaner.
With any product on the market, you want to be clear on the features and all benefits associated with them. It doesn’t matter if the machine has attachments if the user wants an all-in-one device. The vacuum could have an extension cord or six feet—but so irrelevant if the person doing the job has no nearby electrical outlet. When you list a feature such as compact size, low cost, great design, or superior suction, you also ask “so what” at the same time. The answer determines whether the product will be a good or bad choice.
With a political candidate, he or she has certain features like: political party affiliation, state of residency, work history, age, and other common concerns. None of it matters if the person does not share values with the voter. If the individual running for office has no experience or is rather old, it may or may not have bearing on what they believe constitutes the government’s role in policy making. As with a vacuum, the interested party wants to check off certain points on their decision list.
As candidates battle for sound bites, the voters crane their necks to listen for buzz words. While a vacuum cleaner is associated with low noise, light weight, infrequent breakdown, and flexibility, political brand identity revolves around ethics and honesty, voting track record, and basic platform. It all works according to the same psychological mechanism. No one wants a candidate who flip flops their beliefs. Thus, authenticity reigns supreme. Credibility is as important for a manufacturer as a person seeking office. Both a company and a candidate have to “tell it like it is.”
It may be hard to create a brand identity, but there are masters of the science who do it with great ease. They know how to manipulate the media and promote at the same time. The issues of the day will outweigh most other factors. Even vacuum cleaners have them as there are trends that dominate purchase decisions. Now it is all about cordless whereas decades ago it was about an internal plug-in system.
Brand identity with candidates can relate to strong faith and religious values, rejection of government interference, or a bias toward certain goals in society. No matter what it is, there is an art to crafting it and making it known.