With four presidential candidacy announcements thus far, and Election Day only a year and a half away, the inevitable is upon us – the political games have begun.
While it should be one’s political stance that matters most, the truth of the matter is that often times it’s personal image that wins the election. And there is no other time when branding is at its peak than during campaign season.
So far, three republican candidates, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, and one democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, have volunteered as tribute to participate in the political spectacle that is the presidential race.
This week we’re taking a look at the contenders and who, from a marketing perspective, is leading the pack in initial campaign branding via their logo design and social/online activity.
Before candidates can start shouting their platform positions, first comes acquiring name recognition. And marketing professionals know there is no better way for a successful company/brand to have their name recognized and remembered than having a logo that correspondingly resonates.
While campaigns are not won or lost based on a logo, they remain a critical branding event.
Creating an easy on the eyes brand can pay big dividends, says Darren Samuelsohn in his article on candidate logo design. Candidates are desperately trying to reach attention-starved voters he says. A good logo will decide whether or not an email gets opened, what gets liked on social media, and what gets scrolled past.
“A strong brand identity can communicate your message and your values to a potential voter with a single glance, without you having to buy an ad or even say a single word,” said Patrick Ruffini, a GOP digital strategist who managed online efforts for the Bush-Cheney 2004 reelection campaign.
So what makes a good political campaign logo? LogoDesignLove answers this question for us.
“It should have the same traits as any good logo — it needs to be appropriate for who or what it identifies, it should stand out amongst the competition, and it should be simple enough in appearance to be remembered after a quick glance.”
We’ll start by looking at the one that has gotten the most (and unfortunately negative) attention, Hillary Clinton’s logo, which features a blue capital H bisected by a red, right pointing arrow.
Critics have been quick to chime in on various unsettling design points of the logo. First, while understandably aiming to be patriotic, the blue and red presented with no gradient changed, no blank space in between, and presented in a blocky pattern create a feel that many have called clunky, immature, corporate, and industrial.
The second major gaffe critics are quick to comment on is the use of a red, right facing arrow (red + right = republican) for a democratic candidate. However the right facing arrow isn’t necessarily signaling a political shift as some have suggested, it does make sense the arrow would point in the direction we naturally read.
There are still those who have voiced support for the design – creator of the “I ♥ NY” logo, Milton Galser is one. “It’s an effective piece of graphic design, because it encompasses the idea of her name and the idea of movement,” Glaser said. “That’s the stated objective of the logo, and it embraces what the campaign wants to say.”
Using block lettering, Rand’s logo features a solid red flame over his first name.
Rather than sporting the tradition patriotism colors, Paul’s logo boasts red, white and black, rather than blue. Just like the others, there are mixed reviews on the appeal. Some support the look, praising it as simple, bold, and strong.
Karl Gude, a graphics professor at Michigan State University and former graphics artist at Newsweek and the AP, gave Paul credit for choosing an image that he says, “stands out from the jingoistic, flag-waving logos inherent to presidential campaigns.
Commentary has also been appreciative of how the flame above the space of the “A” and “N” creates a clever reveal of a torch. However, some wish the reveal was still a little off the mark and wished to see a more highlighting. To the naked eye the flame simply looks like an accent mark, says Glaser of his review of Paul’s logo.
Yet, lead designer for Obama for America, Dan Carson, sees potential in the logo, “It will be interesting to see how they lean on this in the full design system, as it could serve as it’s own icon if done right.”
Ted Cruz is also using a flame theme, with his logo featuring a flame decorated in stars and stripes before his full name.
Reviews of the logo thus far feature both sophistication and confusion.
The teardrop shape of the flame combined with the American flag adornment have left many social media and professional critics comparing the logo to the likes of a burning flag – a worrisome association for someone running for presidential office.
However, knowing Cruz’s slogan, “Courageous Conservatives: Reigniting the Promise of America”, it is easy to see how the flame was chosen as an attempt to parallel and resonate his branding effort as a whole.
Despite some claiming the logo is reminiscent of The Onion, Tinder, and Al Jazzera, according to a new YouGov poll, Cruz’s logo is faring considering well in the court of public opinion, 63% said they liked the flame design.
Rubio’s logo is perhaps the most simplistic of the four, featuring a small, red silhouette of the continental US dotting the lower case “I” in his last name.
The basis for criticism in Rubio’s logo is within the keyword “continental”. Omission of Hawaii and Alaska angered many of the citizens. Senator Mazie Hirono even tweeted, “There’s no question @mariorubio’s priorities are out of line with what’s best for HI – he even forgot to include us in his campaign logo”.
Other than making sure not to alienate part of the electoral vote, an article by Vox highlights how Rubio’s logo also gives a lesson in the importance in typography.
“The all lowercase and sans serif type treatment speak to modernity and approachability,” says Richard Westendorf. “If Rubio wants to look like he’s more youthful and not stuck in the past (which the tagline seems to imply) it seems he’s hit the mark.”
However, while the lowercase font evokes youthful and hip connotations, the font showcases a kerning (spacing between letters) problem that most are probably oblivious to, but has designers squirming.
The article points out, “look long enough, and you’ll see it: m arc o ru bio.”
And while the space encroaching and engulfing is a flaw that most can probably move past, whether or not Rubio can signal national unity seems to be his biggest issue.
MarketingDive articulately puts logo efforts in perspective of the campaign as a whole, “the criticism underscores the fact that even seemingly minor decisions—like a font or color scheme—can cause significant reactions within a competitive campaign.”
Competitive campaigns not only demand you successfully create a brand presence, but also cultivate it. There is no better, nor more important, way to cultivate presence during elections than digitally. Digital strategy provides an outlet where conveying personal image is directly intertwined with campaign logistics.
The past two presidential elections have been pivotal in highlighting the role of reaching out to voters online. Being digitally present and active is essential. From tweets, to Facebook posts, to YouTube videos, social media is a campaign power tool both for the campaign team and for supporters.
“Whereas seeing a candidate on TV creates distance between the viewer and the subject, reading messages in one’s Twitter or Facebook stream, nestled amongst posts from friends and colleagues, creates a level of intimacy that is distinct from other media,” says Amina Elahi.
We will also take a look at how the candidates are using their digital voice to create conversation, what they are posting about, and how they are interacting across online communication channels.
With such high name recognition, as well as a long anticipated bid, Hilary made an interesting choice by officially announcing her candidacy not via boisterous rally, but by a low-key tweet and video message.
Having made an announcement via social channels would lead us to expect an emphasis on social outlets for her campaigning process, yet so far her approach is being called the “go-slow, go small” strategy. Advisers are saying the strategy plays to strengths – allowing her to meet voters in intimate settings where her humor and humility can show through.
Michael Cornfield, a political scientist at George Washington University, says that initial social media push doesn’t matter as much as it would for less well-known candidates. For Clinton he says, social media is a way not just to build support but also to test messages and themes.
However, in terms of support, Clinton seems to be topping her opponents. Her running announcement generated more social media traffic that all her Republican competitors combined. On Facebook she generated 10.1 million interactions from 4.7 million people that day, and her key tweet has been retweeted more than 100,000 times.
Rand Paul is no stranger to social media, but especially the twitterverse. Politico reporter, Katie Glueck, claims he has the most aggressive feed of the 2016 field – a feed that posts a steady steam of snark, rapid responses, and gimmicks.
Although he doesn’t post the tweets himself, according to his senior political advisor, he is deeply involved, seeing that social media is a key part of both engagement and reaching out to new consistencies.
Vincent Harris, Paul’s chief digital strategist said Paul has given his political team a straightforward mandate when it comes to social media, “You’ve got to be engaging, you’ve got to be entertaining, you’ve got to be different.”
As part of a broad tech savvy strategy, the team plans to use digital correspondence as a first place of communication “because that’s the world we live in,” says Harris. “The goal [is] branding. We live in a 24-second news cycle. And it’s important to insert yourself into that news cycle.”
Paul who used aggressive social media strategy before his announcement, shows no sign of changing during the campaign process. After his announcement speech, Paul scheduled a digital town hall on Facebook, and asked supporters to share photographs of themselves holding “Stand With Rand” signs that his team designed and distributed online.
Cruz also showed signs of employing a campaign strongly presented on social media, as similarly to Hilary, also announced his candidacy via Twitter.
Valerie Caras, a digital strategy manager for Ceisler Media, thinks the social media stratagem makes sense, both in engaging potential voters as well as monitoring them. “They’ll be able to capture, in real time, supporter sentiment, what issues they think he might have, his biggest strengths,” Caras says. “They’ll be able to capitalize on them to further engage those folks to volunteer or donate.”
Although the two candidates have different approaches to how they currently use the outlet. Numbers show that Cruz, who has around 404, 000 followers, tweets 31 times a week, while Clinton who boasts 2.8 million followers, tweets only about once a week.
In regards to his own republican rivals, social media stats show Cruz getting the best social media reception. According to data provided by Facebook, in the 24 hours after Cruz’s announcement, 2.2 million unique people generated 5.7 million interactions (likes, posts, comments, shares) related to him and his announcement.
While Cruz is active on most of the major social outlets – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – there are some issues with his digital presence – his official campaign website. Unfortunately Cruz doesn’t own his name domain tedcruz.com. And the person who does – not a supporter. The page currently boasts “Support President Obama! Immigration Reform Now!”. Another web address, tedcruzforamerica.com is directing users to the healthcare.gov page.
With the official campaign website acting as the primary hub of information, Cruz will need to promote how voters can easily locate him.
Continuing with this “hip and fresh” theme, Rubio has been using social media, mostly Twitter, to post content targeted at young adults with messages highlighting connections to youth culture. Rubio sent a “Game of Thrones” related tweet before the show’s season premiere, he’s told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt that he’s a fan of Pitbull and Nicki Minaji, and has also joked about TMZ asking him about his music taste.
Other than using it as a stream of attempts to be seen as relatable, Rubio has also been employing the channel for campaign arousal as well. Before he even officially announced, Rubio used social media to ask supporters to sign up for an email and promoted tickets for his announcements for $3.05 (a nod to Miami’s area code).
And when Rubio did announce, tweets and Facebook posts counted down the hours until the speech where a team of staffers live-tweeted the entire speech.
Strategies will inevitably change as it is still early in the campaign process, however, thus far, Caroline and I have given our reviews of who we think is leveraging their brand the best.
There are two logos that stand out to me. The first is Hillary’s H. I like the fact that the H can stand on its own. The Obama O showed how powerful a single letter logo can be and Hillary was smart to jump into that lane. However, the logo could have been designed better. As Patrick Mauldin showed in his revision, small tweaks could have really made the logo POP!
I also gravitated towards Marco Rubio’s logo. It is modern and fresh. When you look at it, it gives off a friendly and relaxed vibe. Although I’m not sure how voters will perceive that image, I do think it helps him stand out from his republican opponents.
Hillary is hands down the person running social the best. Her announcement on Twitter was seen 3 million times within an hour of being posted. After reading the numbers in Janie Valencia’s article on her announcement. The republican candidates have a lot of catching up to do. However, Rand Paul is swinging back strong with slogans like “Liberty not Hillary” and “Stand with Rand”. Not to mention his online store has the trendiest merchandise.
Of the four that currently exist, Cruz has my vote for best logo. While critics comment it looks like a burning flag, I think that in relation to his slogan, “Reigniting the Promise of America”, the logo provides fitting symbolism. Most importantly, I think the symbol is fit to evolve into a stand along icon for Cruz and his platform as the campaign continues. Furthermore, the gradient choices for his patriotic theme provide fluidity rather than flatness as Hillary’s does. And while some appreciated Rand’s boldness of using black, I personally find it alienating. Feelings of patriotism swell during election season and I think the public appreciates seeing the traditional red, white, and blue represented in the candidates.
Rand, however, does get my vote for digital activity. Even though he may not be dominating in terms of numbers of followers, I think he effectively uses it as an outlet for his honest voice. His Twitter feed includes graphics, gifs, and clips – content choices that show he can combine information with entertainment. However, as his run continues, he many need to tone down his snark remarks to gain support of his fellow republicans, as well as, appeal to broader voter audiences.
What are your opinions? Lets us know what you think of the logos and how the candidates are preforming online. Comment below!
-Savannah Valade & Caroline Robinson