Digital MarketingStrategiesClickZ cases the candidates: branding

ClickZ cases the candidates: branding

Last week, we focused on the presidential hopefuls' emails. In part two of this series, we reached out to some branding experts to talk logos and slogans.

Last week, we focused on the presidential hopefuls’ emails. In part two of this series, we reached out to some branding experts to talk logos and slogans.

Because logos are the face of a brand, having a strong one is important for any presidential candidate who’s serious about his or her digital marketing. And since it’s 2016, that would be all of them.

ClickZ cases the candidates kicked off last week with a look at the email marketing of Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. I signed up for all five of their lists and analyzed their emails: frequency, content, personalization.

Branding is much more subjective. So this week, I reached out to the chief strategy officer at a branding consultancy and the marketing director at a graphic design firm to help me break it down.


For me, two of the candidates’ logos immediately bring to mind other logos. Clinton’s looks like a cross between the Fed Ex logo and the road sign for “Hospital,” while Cruz’s flame, presumably a nod to the Statue of Liberty, reminds me of Tinder.


Neither of those really say anything about Clinton or Cruz, either, while Sanders’ logo denotes a certain friendliness. That makes it more appealing to me than any of the others. Thomas Ordahl, chief strategy officer at Landor Associates, agrees.

“Most of the country had no idea who he was [before his presidential campaign], so he had to build a personal relationship with America. It’s very friendly, accessible and human. It’s appropriate, given his brand,” says Ordahl.


He thinks the opposite of Clinton’s logo. In addition to confusion about the arrow – it’s meant to denote forward progress, but can be interpreted as pointing right, the opposite of her political bent – he doesn’t think it has the same inviting quality.

“If we’re thinking about Hillary, what’s her biggest challenge? What’s her brand? What’s she about? Is this conveying that? I find it kind of cold. I think it lacks personality and I feel like she needs more humanizing,” says Ordahl.

Trump’s logo does a better job communicating what he’s about. Unlike the previous three candidates, his logo includes his slogan.

That branding double-whammy is part of why Mike Krisher, co-owner of SmartNet Solutions, thinks Trump has the strongest logo.

“It’s not so creative, but it’s direct. As a candidate, whether we like him or not, he’s direct and to the point so it does represent him well,” says Krisher.

“It’s very clean and simple, and more modern,” he adds, noting that going the subliminal message route as Clinton did is passé. “Nowadays, when you look at Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter and all those sites, they have very clean logos.”


Trump’s logo also serves as something of a credibility-booster. It’s similar enough to his corporate logo and since his business acumen is such a big part of his platform, he’s melding his commercial and political brands.

Rubio is the only other candidate to incorporate his slogan into his logo, which is easily the weakest of the five. It’s generic and blah, and red and black (that is black, right?) is an odd color pairing for presidential branding.

“That map of the U.S. above the I is not very creative. It’s pretty horrible; it’d be like me spelling ‘Mike’ and putting the state of Ohio above the I,” says Krisher.



As a whole, Ordahl finds the candidates’ slogans underwhelming. He doesn’t see any of them having the potential to really take off like Dwight Eisenhower’s “I Like Ike,” which is still one of the most famous presidential campaign slogans more than 60 years later.

Rubio’s “A New American Century” is probably the weakest of the five. It’s bland enough that it could have come from a random patriotic saying generator.  Rubio’s also doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, given that a new American century won’t begin for another 84 years.

But also: what does “A New American Century” mean, exactly? Like “Hillary for America,” it doesn’t actually communicate anything. Neither does “Feel the Bern,” as catchy as it may be.

“It’s creative, but what does it mean? Is it an exercise video? Am I working out?” asks Krisher, who thinks Cruz and Trump have much stronger slogans than their three competitors.

“Make America Great” may be boring and almost identical to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 slogan, but it at least has an idea built into it. It’s also fits in with Trump, who’s branding points toward being the disruptor.

Cruz’s “Reigniting the Promise of America” is also generic, but still communicates something. Any blandness is also redeemed by “TrusTed,” an unofficial logo/slogan combo I find to be the most clever in the race.


To sum up

Though Rubio’s logo and slogan combination is the weakest, if I were to rank these five, I would still put him in fourth place. I’m willing to cut him a little slack because he’s so much greener than Clinton, who I’d place last.

She’s been a household name for so long now that her branding really should be much stronger. Like Trump, whose logo and slogan say something about what he’s trying to represent, in a way that’s on brand and seamlessly carries over from his pre-political days.

I’m giving this round to him.


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