Friday, July 25, 2008

Picture-perfect branding in Berlin (Guest)

Note to community: We're honored to have guest writer Ernie Mills share his insights. Ernie is a communications consultant, superb writer for hire, and former operative and mass-mind manipulator for the Republican National Committee in Washington.

Ich bin ein Campaigner!
Barack Obama's speech in Berlin was a little long and a bit too nostalgic for the Cold War clarities and polarities. Some phrases sang out ("History has led us to a new crossroad, with new promise and new peril"), and others echoed Lincoln at Gettysburg ("Now the world will watch and remember what we do here – what we do with this moment").

Not all was perfect. At one point we needed to play mental Twister to keep up the verbal contortions ("The terrorists of September 11 plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil"). And yet again we were thumped with the humble-beginnings shtick ("My father grew up herding goats in Kenya").
Nonetheless it was a fine speech and perfectly on-brand. As Brandsinger pointed out last month, Barack Obama is the candidate of "we." In fact, he used that word 58 times, while uttering the word "I" only 10.

However, nothing he said could bolster his brand more than the physical set-up. It's no coincidence that every major newspaper in America carried virtually the same photo. That is, you see the back of a man in a dark suit, contrasted against a sea of adoring faces. The face of Obama himself is nowhere to be seen. He is literally one with the We.

So the brand-building award goes not to the speechwriter, but to the advance staffer who realized that the best location for top photographers would be on a platform behind the stage! As any designer will tell you: if the image is strong enough, the FPO copy will work just fine.
- Ernie Mills

1 comment:

brandsinger said...

Nicely presented, Ernie. The symbolic - dare we say iconic - photo has been part of American presidential lore since Lincoln's day. In 1960 is was Kennedy walking alone on a beach, symbolizing the solitary, contemplative leader gaining strength and wisdom from nature. I think Nixon tried the same shot... but looked stiff and out of place with his suit and tie on. For Clinton it was, what, wagging his finger in denial? -brandsinger