Not Apple, not General Motors, not Microsoft. If we're talking the really big brands currently dominating American consciousness, we're talking politics—the 2012 US presidential election, specifically.
While the Democrats and Republicans slug it out in a bid to win the hearts and minds of voters, the essential need for closely controlled brand management becomes ever more evident. And the relative strengths and weaknesses of these competing campaigns point to some interesting issues from which every brand could take away some lessons.
1. Stand for something and stay on message
Romney has focused on the ailing American economy, while emphasizing his qualifications as a business expert. Obama's core argument has been that without him at the White House, these last four years would have been a lot worse.
In the early part of the campaign, Romney sometimes struggled to find a strong message, apparently changing his point of view frequently. His ratings suffered. Now the Republican candidate is projecting a more consistent message—and his improved ratings underline the critical power of coherency in defining and positioning one's brand clearly.
For both parties, winning votes will depend to a large extent on having a clear message and consistently promoting that message. In the 2004 election, John Kerry positioned himself as "not George Bush." Even though Bush was unpopular, Kerry lost because he didn't really stand for anything.
Those of us in branding and brand management know this principle well: Quite simply, the more rigorously you can define your brand story and control the projection of it, the better the marketplace will understand what you stand for—and be ready to buy from you.
2. Get brand advocates on board
Jens Lundgaard is founder and chief executive officer of Brandworkz, a UK-based provider of brand management software and project implementation consultancy.