Political ideology aside, the 2010 Brown campaign’s brand is very similar to Obama’s in 2008. As a student of brand building I have been watching the Brown campaign (through my branding lens) since before he even announced his candidacy.
Whether planned or not, Scott has been running a political branding playbook similar to Obama’s all along and like the 2008 Obama brand, Brown’s brand message is working very well with voters. Both campaigns position the candidate as the anti-establishment underdog who will bring change to Washington. The brands were designed to rally and empower the masses via social media and decentralized grass roots support. Neither candidate had the strong backing of the “established” portion of their party until they shocked the world with unimaginable poll numbers.
The other strong similarity is that both gentlemen were up against candidates with very weak brands. While Clinton and now Coakley core supporters loved them, the masses were never really sure what these candidates stood for and why they should support them. In the final election, both Obama and Brown faced opponents who spent more negative energy telling us why we should not vote for the inexperienced change canidate. Then when negativity didn’t work, the opponents tried “me too” brand positioning by pointing out how they can change things also. This last ditch effort positioning always gives little reason to be energized about a brand.
If Brown wins, his real challenge will be putting his brand promise in action. Unfortunately for change brands, “Real World” Washington is much harder to operate in than “Campaign Promise” Washington. We have seen this with “Brand Obama” vs. “President Obama”. Since his election, Obama has not been able to continue the positive change that he promised and his mass support has dropped dramatically.
Even if Brown doesn’t win, he will have done something no Republican has done in a very long time. He will have made the Massachusetts senate race an actual race to the finish. This is why we will see this branding playbook used in many campaigns for years to come.
However, like all successful marketing tactics, this playbook can only be useful for so long before the customer will become skeptical, especially if Washington politics continues to keep the elected from being able to deliver on their brand promise.
The popularity of these two campaigns shows that real change is a concept that resonates with the American people regardless of their political affiliation. Let’s hope that Washington gets the message. Maybe then they will all stop promising change and actually deliver it.
© 2010, Dave Lubelczyk