Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rick Santorum - Designing A Candidacy

During logo deliberations, a fledgling campaign must weigh its desired message against its candidate’s name recognition. “Newt,” for example, can get away with a single first name, like “Hillary” or “Ike,” because of strong voter identification with the individual’s brand. Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, and Thaddeus McCotter, however, were forced to lay a “get-to-know-me” groundwork in order to introduce themselves as presidential aspirants. In their cases, the messaging proved unsuccessful.

Source: Rick Santorum for President

Rick Santorum falls into this unfamiliar camp. Even with his two terms as an outspokenly conservative senator, he is little known to non-Pennsylvanians who weren’t watching Meet The Press in 2005. Santorum did build a name within the Republican caucus thanks to his fervent family focus. He rose to the position of conference chairman as the party’s megaphone for traditional values. In 2006, however, Santorum lost reelection to Bob Casey, Jr., by 18 points, the largest margin of victory ever by a Democratic nominee in Pennsylvania history. Santorum then worked as a low-key lawyer, columnist, think-tanker, and Fox News personality before announcing his run for president on June 6, 2011.

Given Santorum’s consistent policy positions but soft name recognition, we would expect his campaign logo to proclaim loudly his family principles. Instead, Santorum’s banner is a jumble of hits and misses. The all-caps lettering is clear but unremarkable in its insubstantial, barely modified Garamond font. The dueling red and blue colors of the first and last names fight against each other, pulling focus rather than offering a unified theme. The red hue, in addition, is a curious epicene tone between crimson and rose, officially known as “folly” (we’re not making that up).

The best part of Santorum’s insignia is the circle of stars and soaring eagle in the "O" of his last name. The bird is ascendant, evoking patriotic notes. Still, Santorum’s name is not common enough to be divided by a symbol. It almost appears as though his name is “Rick Sant Rum.”

Liberal activists have made Santorum a punching bag over his controversial statements. But his articulation of neo-conservative principles has won him praise during recent debate performances. Santorum's dedicated stops in each of Iowa’s 99 counties have also earned kudos for retail politicking. His slogan, therefore, should be a point of pride for the Santorum brand. Something akin to “Faith, Family, and Freedom,” which is the title of his current tour, would have established a resonant motto to reinforce his moral policies. Instead, the Santorum campaign chose “The Courage to Fight for America.” Bland and unexceptional, this formula could apply to any leader in any contest. It fails to connect to Santorum’s competitive advantage among faith-based, right-leaning voters. Even with his strong debate skills, we fear Santorum may never ride the polling surge his fellow second-tier candidates have fleetingly enjoyed.

Check out our other posts about design and education in the 2012 election.

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