Running for office is extremely different than running an office. Yet a campaign is our chance to learn about the candidates seeking the office of President, Congress, Governor, Mayor or other positions. It is also a chance for the candidates to test the waters to see if the public is ready for a person like them to lead. In the United States, unlike other nations, the campaign season gets longer and longer, much like the holiday season starting the day after Halloween. So candidates have a year or more to sell an idea and try to persuade and influence the voting public, that their ideas make more sense than the other candidates. Debates like the one held tonight in suburban Detroit is a rare opportunity to corral the (GOP) candidates and watch how they deal with the difficult task of face their worse critics – Their opponent.
But in the heat of a debate, candidates often are going after each other to stand out from the rest of the pact. In doing so, their message and that of the GOP gets lost. While they all say they can do better than the status quo there is no real message as to what the candidates stand for.
On the other hand, President Barack Obama was successful as a candidate, in part because he created a brand. He was the only candidate that we can identify a logo with and we knew what he stood for, whether we agreed with him or not. He had a message and a plan and a way in delivering it to the masses where everyone understood it.
A brand is how or what we identify people or a company with. It is the message that separates the product from the others. In communicating a brand, it is important that you communicate something that others can understand and identify with. For example, people respond to emotional appeal, not issues, but personality and an appealing story. In creating a brand, it is important that you give people a reason to support you.
Over the past few weeks, Herman Cain’s brand has been tarnished and he has been trying, unsuccessfully to minimize the story although as tonight’s debate showed, the audience or public want to focus on what the person believes in or supports, rather what they did, even in the wake of the Penn State allegations.
Nonetheless, the only way to cut through the communication clutter is to create a brand and the top GOP candidates are having a difficult time standing out from each other. Like Obama, they need their own logo, their story that can capture our attention, their message. The message cannot be just “anti-Obama” or “anti-Democrat.” It needs to be more substantive.
Once you have the messages are clear and tested, the candidates can then create a unique story to use throughout the campaign and at the next debate. Throughout the campaign, the “brand” should be monitored and evaluated. For example,
- Are people identifying with you brand?
- Are the messages resonating?
- Are we consistent on our website, in our social media, at events and in how we communicate to supporters, the public and to the media?
- What is the online chatter or people saying off-line.
Today campaigning is all about gaining one's trust, building our credibility and generating public awareness as to what a candidate stands for and their agenda for moving a country forward. I am not sure if that was accomplished tonight. Some candidates however, did stand out over others. They just need to build upon that momentum that Michelle Bachman desperately failed at after Iowa. But for all the GOP candidates, they have time. We still have about 10 months to go before the GOP Convention in Florida in August, 2012. For the President, it is time that he re-evaluate and re-adjust his plan, and be ready to face the Republicans early next year.