Argyle’s creative strategist analyzes 2016 candidate visuals.
Ever since a visibly perspiring Richard Nixon lost a nationally televised debate to a relaxed and dashing John F. Kennedy, personal branding has been pivotal to US presidential politics – a trend that continues as the 2016 election season dawns.
Campaign logos, how the American people perceive them, and how these visual representation of a candidate jibe with the candidate’s vision and values, are an interesting study in the science of branding.
The Obama campaign in 2008 undoubtedly proved the power of simplicity in logos. An un-frivolous “O” symbolizing the hope of “a new day,” and resembling a sun on the horizon made for an impactful metaphor for Obama’s brand promise.
- Narrative – strong
- Emotion – aspirational
- Personality – dynamic
In contrast, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 logo dispenses with idealism in favour a more pragmatic narrative. The “H,” with an arrow running through it, screams forward motion, steady momentum and no-time-to-waste. The use of Hillary’s first name also helps personalize the mark to her, independent of President Bill Clinton’s legacy.
- Narrative – simplistic
- Emotion – pragmatic
- Personality – dependable
Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas and tea-partier, chose to wrap his image in the American flag, albeit one that seems to be ablaze. Cruz’s logo has been criticized for the reason that it may infer an inappropriate and unpatriotic message. On the flip-side, the flame could symbolize hope and courage. Online, the logo has been likened to the identities of the US Natural Gas Industry, Al-Jezeera and the Onion.
- Narrative – movement
- Emotion – patriotic
- Personality – energetic
Rand Paul also chose a flame as his symbol, this time without the accompanying patriotic iconography of stars, stripes. The flame is presented as a torch to be carried by like-minded American citizens; a rather clever approach as the campaign encourages people to express their views by leveraging the torch/flame symbol. His logo has been mocked online for its similarity to the Tinder.com mark.
- Narrative – courage
- Emotion – inclusivity
- Personality – confident
Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, hopes to embody the dreams of a disenfranchised Latino population. He sought to turn a potential limitation into an opportunity by using the silhouette of the continental United States to dot the “i” in “Rubio” as the key element of his identity. Once reduced to the size barely larger than a dot though, the outline of the United States begins to look like a whale. It will be interesting to see how this one is played out further along in the 2016 campaign, as the contour of the country is a rather unwieldy graphical shape to carry through as a symbol. It lacks the simplicity that icons require to be effective.
- Narrative – solidarity
- Emotion – hopeful
- Personality – approachable
It will also be interesting to observe what other presidential hopefuls – such as Jeb Bush, Chris Christie or Scott Walker, if they run — choose as their symbols of identity. Bush will have the challenge of distancing himself from his brother’s still-contentious legacy, while Christie will need to cast a much more sympathetic personality and distance himself from the scandal that has affected his governorship of New Jersey. He will do well to stay away from bridge metaphors.
About the Author:
Jean-Pierre Veilleux is the President and Creative Director for Argyle Brand Counsel + Design; more lovingly known as ABC+D.