Marketing 101:Joint Ticket Makes Little Branding Sense



Once again the Marketing Doctor decides to venture into tricky territory for the sake of branding!
I can’t help it!  When you see the world through the lens of branding some things make instant sense – or not!!!  Brand-thinking is a powerful tool because it gets the emotion out of the calculation!!!  And using the branding essentials as your starting point and guide can help you avoid a lot of dead ends and costly mistakes.

The idea of a joint Obama-Clinton ticket is a clear branding no no.  It would be one thing if the Obama and Hillary brands were in the early primary stages and voters had a vague sense of each brand and neither brand had tried to hard to differentiate itself from the other.  But this just isn’t the case!  Because of the length of this primary fight, brand identity and loyalty to brand have become central.  What this means is that a kind of brand mutual exclusivity has set in.  The Obama brand stands for something that the Hillary brand does not.  And vice versa!

But that doesn’t mean a joint ticket won’t happen anyway.  Think JFK and LBJ or Reagan and Bush!  Both were bitterly contested primaries that ended up with joint tickets that won in the end. 
Still my branding sense is that the Obama Clinton situation is different for many reasons including the fact that the Obama brand has harnessed the powerful concept of “change” and as the primary has grown more divisive this has made the Clinton brand more strongly aligned –fairly or unfairly— with the opposite of change.

In product land, Pepsi carved out a profitable brand by being the sweeter cola.  When Coke tried to get sweeter with New Coke there was a huge backlash against its brand.  Coke couldn’t be Pepsi.  Obviously, politics isn’t the same as product branding, but when you have two powerful and well-defined brands like Obama and Clinton similar branding rules apply!

Another soda example.  In the seventies, 7UP positioned their brand as the “uncola.”  Obama has done something similar with his brand.  He is the “unpolitician” (meaning doing politics in a new way).  How can this “unpolitician” brand work with the Hillary “pol par excellence” brand (which means doing politics as usual).  This is confusing to the electorate and since the top of the ticket is the brand that drives the combined brand you don’t want to make things confusing when they don’t have to be!  Such a combination would also undermine the credibility of the Obama’s brand “uncola” message –it would be like 7UP deciding to offer a cola when it had built its target market being anti-cola!

My branding advice would be to think twice before considering this a dream ticket!

And, remember, it’s always easier when you keep branding in mind!

Some more links on this story:

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=499049

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/03/08/bill-clinton-a-clinton-obama-ticket-would-be-unstoppable/

http://www.theweekdaily.com/news_opinion/top_stories/41487/could_an_obamaclinton_ticket_win.html

TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY –

Two powerful and well-known brands together don’t always add up to something greater than the sum of their parts!


 

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