A political brand is the same as a corporate brand. Both try to carve out unique identities. They seek to evoke positive emotions and consumer confidence at the mention of their names or at the appearance of their insignia. A familiar logo is the ultimate encapsulation of brand loyalty.
Political campaigns spend hours with focus groups crafting their ideal icons. This messaging becomes part of the larger world of media literacy, which can be a productive way to frame discussions with students each November. It can be difficult to teach civics in non-presidential election years. This constraint, however, actually presents an opportunity, since it allows teachers to focus on the critical role played by state and local governments within the federalist system.
|Source: Chris Christie For Governor, Inc.|
Interestingly, the only two governorships before the voters in 2013 are both in deeply purple states. This offers an additional opening for students to explore the changing nature of the American electorate. The race in Virginia is expected to be a scorched-earth nail-biter. The race in New Jersey, however, is currently tilting entirely in favor of reigning governor Chris Christie. The current polls show him leading 60 percent to 28 percent.
Christie's logo evokes this sense of strength and inevitability in the prominent all-caps lettering and the no-nonsense moniker of “Governor.” He is not running “for” governor, nor does he mention any party affiliation. His design reinforces his incumbent status and the de facto nature of his assured return to the capital. Here, Christie succeeds in the “Governor” tag, while Ken Cuccinelli’s similar but over-serifed and presumptuous attempt fails in Virginia. Christie incorporates both dark slate blue and fire brick red texts to unite the two sides of the electorate, and the trio of stars seems a fitting klaxon to underscore his name and tee up his office.
|Source: Chris Christie For Governor, Inc.|
As a whole, however, Christie’s placard is something of a mess. Sideways text never succeeds well, since it is foreign to the expected flow of readable text. The minute first name of “Chris” tucked vertically in the left corner is jarring to the eye and unnecessary in a state where the governor has universal name recognition. It also exaggerates the chunky nature of the “Christie” Impact font. The generic slogan at the bottom, “Strong Leadership Now,” is equally as redundant. With an approval rating of 70 percent, Christie doesn’t need to remind voters of his “strength,” especially in an oddly kerned justified blur. In fact, the catchphrase undermines his prior term, by suggesting that “now” the state needs a strong leader (as opposed to the past four years). We like the banner at the top of his website much better, where he eschews the puzzle-pieces and simply features his name and title. The color is a contemporary Tufts blue, and the font is like an elegant, interesting Caronta. The campaign team should have used this modish layout for all of its marketing pieces.
|Source: Barbara Buono for Governor|
Christie’s opponent, Barbara Buono, faces an uphill battle in name recognition, but her logo is a good first start. As a state senator and former member of the General Assembly, Buono has a solid political resume, but she can’t compete with Christie’s successful stewardship during Hurricane Sandy. In mocking up her poster, Buono’s team made several key design choices. Similar to Terry McAuliffe’s squad in Virginia, they opted for the increasingly popular pistachio color, which until recently was almost unheard of in red-white-and-blue politicking. The green juxtaposition with the charcoal gray background gives a popping quality to the bold serif Frusta of her all-caps name.
The subtitle in fine white Kohinoor Latin prominently mentions her political party, which many candidates opt to obscure in order to reach independent voters. Buono is making a key calculation that with her low voter identification, she should appeal to the state’s Democrats, who make up the majority and who twice elected President Barack Obama. While Christie did not include a logo, Buono’s trademark is the state itself, textured and encircled by a ring of stars. While simple and not terribly original, it’s a solid choice for a politician trying to amplify the authority of her candidacy. Even though she’ll likely lose at the polls in November, Buono wins in the modern appeal of her brand.
Check out our other posts about design and education in elections.