The second quarter of 2015 signals the beginning of the 2016 election cycle. With each presidential campaign kickoff, Americans will be pummeled with messages and images across all media platforms from multiple candidates up until November 2016. Among these recent announcements, none has been more notable than Hillary Clinton’s.
Following Clinton’s much-anticipated formal announcement, many were quick to criticize her campaign. But it wasn’t her proposed policies or her stance on hot-button issues that fueled the fire. It was the logo chosen to headline her campaign.
The Clinton campaign’s nameless, minimalist approach to the logo was quickly deemed “boring” and “too simplistic” by pundits and voters alike, which raised the question – who came up with this thing?
The answer is Michael Bierut of Pentagram, one of the most prestigious design firms in the world. Pentagram has developed some of the world’s most recognizable logos and branding efforts, ranging from TIME magazine to “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” It’s safe to assume some intelligent thought was put into the development of the logo and its execution.
So, why the widespread criticism? This can best be explained by briefly comparing the key differences between political campaigns and corporate branding efforts:
- Political campaigns differ from corporate branding efforts in that they focus on a person or cause rather than a product or service.
- Unlike the tangible aspects offered through products and services, people and causes offer much more intangible qualities, which naturally are harder to market and evoke much stronger emotions when compared to traditional consumer products.
- Instead of convincing consumers to purchase a good or service to be used for a limited amount of time, political campaigns are seeking to establish an individual as someone with whom voters can identify with as a long-term commitment.
While brand loyalists do exist, when it comes to the U.S. political landscape, no consumer product can compare to the passion held for – or against – political parties, causes and candidates – or in this case, political brands. This was on full display following the unveiling of the Clinton 2016 campaign logo, as the dialogue focused on the logo was driven by individuals who likely either already had deeply-held opinions regarding Clinton and her ideals or felt the logo fell short of their expectations. But despite the fundamental differences in the approaches of political and corporate branding campaigns, what comprises an effective logo remains true across disciplines:
- A logo is a visual representation of aspects unique to your brand, and should not be created as a visual collage of everything your brand offers.
- An effective logo must be simple, memorable and unique.
- And above all else, a logo should strive to set the brand apart from its competitors.
Taking this into consideration, the job of a logo now becomes to allow the viewer, and in this case potential voters, to quickly understand who and what your brand is all about. And placing the strong emotions associated with political parties and individual candidates aside, the question now turns to whether or not the campaign logo is doing its job. Analyzing the actual layout of the logo helps answer this question:
- Not using the candidate’s name. Hillary Clinton has name recognition far and beyond any of the potential contenders in the upcoming 2016 presidential election, so there was seemingly no need to place emphasis on her name, as she has spent substantial time building her brand and visibility among the general public in recent years through her roles as a former First Lady, a U.S. Senator and the U.S. Secretary of State. Adding this to the fact that every other candidate who has announced their candidacy has made their name the focal point of their campaign distinguishes her brand from her peers.
- Avoiding a “third term for Obama.” Clinton had the task of separating herself from a current U.S. President who shares the same party and for whom she also served in a high-profile cabinet role. She needs to separate her brand to distinguish herself from other candidates and ideals. And, when comparing her logo to the logo that drove President Obama’s winning campaigns in 2008 and 2012, a stark contrast was drawn. Though her campaign did make a very deliberate and interesting decision to “brand” her campaign similar to that of Obama’s with a logo, instead of her name being the focal point.
- A unifying candidate. A final, yet important point to make is the masculine design of the logo. Being considered one of the first viable female presidential candidates, this speaks to her appeal to women voters and her attempt to convey a more compelling message to male voters.
The logo isn’t overly sophisticated. It isn’t filled with color and graphical elements. But it is effective in that it is readily identifiable with the candidate and her brand and can transmit many feelings, messages and ideas through a simple image.
Despite what is being said about the logo, the point is that the logo is being talked about and, most importantly, being tied directly back to the Hillary Clinton brand.
By Will Hodges, senior account executive