How Obama used the Power of Branding – The Big O

Sorry Oprah, you just aren’t the Big O anymore.

It doesn’t matter if you were in the 46% of voters who voted for McCain or the 52% who voted for Obama there is no denying that Barack built a strong recognizable brand and then used that brand recognition to help him get to the White House.  How can we repeat his success with our own business?  Sure, he had millions of dollars to spend and you don’t, but that doesn’t matter – that type of brand recognition can be accomplished by anyone on any budget.  The idea is simple.  Start with a strong visual image that accurately communicates what you are trying to say and then repeat it everywhere.  It is okay to have variations – you message or call to action will change – but the overall image should connect with what people have already seen.  This is called building brand equity.  Just like the equity you build in your home, the more and more people see your brand the more and more they will identify with it.  There is power in this recognition so don’t squander it by constantly changing your visual presentation of your business.   All visual communications should connect, so that they can in turn connect with your target audience, each time stronger than before.

How do you do this?

Practical Application

1.  You need a logo (or brand).

See my post regarding this all important part of your business and how to hire someone to create one for you and what to expect.  This is the foundation of all your brand building and brand equity.  Love your brand.  Make sure that it can be adaptable to other applications.  Make sure it effectively communicates what you want it to say.  Your logo itself does not HAVE to be the only visual item associated with your brand.  Think of Wal-Mart and their use of the smiley face.

2.  Plaster your brand.

Now that you have your logo or brand, (or other linked identifying item that is consistent with your brand, like the Wal-Mart smiley face) you need to adapt it to everything associated with your business.  It needs to be everywhere.  Your website, invoices, facebook page, letterhead, brochures – everywhere.  The more places you put it the greater the chance someone will see it.  That is what this is about.  You have to have brand recognition before you can have brand equity.  (kinda like you need a down payment before you can buy that house)

3.  Police your brand.

Maintain your brand standards.

Nothing irks me more as a designer than to work long and hard with a client to build and create a perfect brand for them, and the get an email from someone in the office who has little hearts and flowers all over the page and not the branded email signature we created for the company.  Is this the message you want your employees to send out?  This weakens your brand (not to mention it isn’t professional).  Select a company font and use it.  No more emails or Word Docs using Comic Sans.  Select a professional font for ALL of your correspondence (email too!) and then make everyone use it.  Period.  It is your company and font choice is not anything anyone should get twisted about.  If they do, they obviously don’t have enough work to do.

Nothing irks me more as a designer than to work long and hard with a client to build and create a perfect brand for them, and the get an email from someone in the office who has little hearts and flowers all over the page and not the branded email signature we created for the company.  Is this the message you want your employees to send out?  This weakens your brand (not to mention it isn’t professional).  Select a company font and use it.  No more emails or Word Docs using Comic Sans.  Select a professional font for ALL of your correspondence (email too!) and then make everyone use it.  Period.  It is your company and font choice is not anything anyone should get twisted about.  If they do, they obviously don’t have enough work to do.

4.  Be consistent.

Don’t change things every six months or every year.  Just like your home building brand equity takes time.  Stick with your brand for the long-haul.  (note:  it is okay to rebrand yourself, but only after careful consideration and a plan.  Think about the Cingular and AT&T.  Two and a half years later they are still merging those two brands.)

5.  Develop a plan for the brand.

How will you use it in new and creative ways?  Do you have it everywhere you can put it?  Does everything surrounding your brand help to promote your brand?  (Do you hand a brochure with your brand on it, only to have a new client then go to your web site and they FREAK out for a second because they don’t think they are in the right place because your brochure and website look NOTHING alike?)

6.  Self promote your brand.

Your facebook page, myspace, personal email, etc.  It is okay to be shameless when promoting your brand.

“Well, I have a logo, but none of my stuff is branded and I don’t have the money to do what you are talking about!”

Yes you do.  Just not all at once.  Again, and I’ll say this over and over again on this blog, you need a plan!  List all of your current items and the importance they are to your business.  Then item by item have them reworked to fit into your new branding, as your cash-flow allows.  Be diligent and self-promote by letting your current clients know what you are doing.  Send out a letter, email, press release, what ever and tell them, “Acme has a new look and feel.  Over the next few months we will be getting a make-over.  Keep your eyes open and watch how we transform!”  Get them excited about making your brand consistent – tie it into new products or services you are offering.  Use your Creative Wisdom and make it happen!

Still not convinced.  Think about how Barack branded himself, use that to benefit your business.   It isn’t that hard.  You just need a plan.

Written By Leah Dossey, owner, art director and designer at Blueleaf Creative.  Contact Leah at ldossey@blueleafcreative.com  Follow Leah on Twitter,  join the facbook group Creative Wisdom, or become a fan of Blueleaf Creative.

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