February 6, 2020
With the commencement of presidential-election fever comes the YouTube ads we inevitably skip and the bubbly TV spots of presidential candidates peddling their policy proposals, with just the right proportion of white people and people of color in the background cheering on each respective candidate. While these policy proposals are certainly a central focus of campaigns, their success lies in the hands of a more furtive presence: branding.
Want a candidate who’s down-to-earth and can understand a blue-collar demographic? Try marketing yourself as “someone you can have a beer with.” George W. Bush, though just as Ivy-League educated and wealthy as his opponent, Al Gore, portrayed himself as such, and succeeded in appealing to the general public, championing himself as just “one of the guys.”
Perhaps you want to make a female candidate more engaging to overcome the unfortunate obstacle that is her sex? Try clothing her in poorly fitted, shapeless pantsuits that evoke images of masculinity and “strong leadership” that aim to make the public forget her femininity and the perceived “weaknesses” that come with this anatomical impediment, like those of Hillary Clinton.
Branding is a brazen appeal to pathos amongst constituents, and may be the key to securing your vote for them. Lionizing a candidate through subtle outfit adjustments, or citing touching childhood stories during debates or town halls, are the tenets of campaign promotions, but the real kicker are the campaign websites.
Pick the wrong font or color scheme, and consider yourself unlikeable and a vice-presidential hopeful, at best. However, with just the right selection of photos, inspirational quotes and attractive collections of campaign apparel and stickers, you may just be in the Oval Office come next January.
With the 2020 election season upon us, the newest class of presidential hopefuls have released their campaign websites, which, aside from the expected donation window acting as the gatekeeper to enter any campaign website, reveal the brilliant marketing ploys that aim to portray each candidate in a certain way. Below are superlatives derived from and based upon them.
Most Likely to Host a Fourth of July Barbecue
Joe Biden’s website, blinding in its use of the patriotic red, white and blue, clearly tries to appeal to a more blue-collar demographic, by painting himself as a loving grandfather and husband, as indicated by the smattering of adorable family photos of him taking his grandkids to the park. Biden also highlights his military experience through photos of his younger self in front of a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber plane, shaking the hands of fellow veterans and soldiers, which may also be an attempt to hint at the youth he has left in him. A train runs down his “Meet Joe” page, evoking the very Midwestern values he champions. Overall, Biden is trying to evoke classic Americana, with the stars and stripes adorning his website, while making sure to include photos of people of color so as to not seem too detached from his younger constituents. Thus, he’s earned the superlative of “Most Likely to Host a Fourth of July Barbecue”.
Most Likely to Tell You to Sit up Straight
Elizabeth Warren’s website strikes a similar tone, as the pastel hues and pictures of a younger Warren with her children paint her as a loving mother. However, the bold, capitalized text and descriptions of her childhood in a middle-class family in Oklahoma show her ability to be more presidential and authoritative. The strategically selected videos of her cooking with her Republican brothers and high-fiving children show how she tries to overcome an impossible obstacle: being a woman. Her website mirrors the balance she champions in all her speeches and appearances, that of a doting mother and an austere politician.
Most Likely to Recommend a Yoga Instructor
Marianne Williamson, although no longer a presidential candidate, had arguably the most true-to-character campaign website of them all. The bright pink and purple graphics, along with the delicate fonts and hearts laced across the pages, reflect Williamson’s message of spreading kindness and fighting fear with love. Her website, unlike Warren’s, relies on emphasizing her femininity, a unique technique that female candidates seldom employ. Her published blog posts are conversational, and reflect her unlikely and small-scale campaign.
Branding can make or break a campaign, with a website serving as the key platform for all communication, both political and emotional. The specific font or color scheme used can help voters understand more about the candidates and can provide them with a window into their family lives, beliefs and general disposition. Campaign websites are certainly worth looking at and exploring, as you may learn more than you think about a candidate by seeing if they prefer Times New Roman or Helvetica.