[This article was about the original campaign brand, which launched in February 2017, but was changed in December 2017]
As a marketer, I knew choosing the right tone for the campaign brand would make all the difference as we try to grow our audience. So I recruited a crack team of designers, and got to work. Here are some of the decisions we made.
Affordances vs. Differences
As we grow up and experience the world and our particular society and culture, we begin to develop certain expectations about what words and symbols mean. When you see Mercury’s shoe in a logo you typically think “speed.” When you see a lion you think “strength.”
When creating a brand, the marketer has to decide if they are going to tap into these expectations, or try to forge a new path. When you do something people expect, it’s called giving them an affordance. If you want people to think speed, using Mercury’s shoe in logo is just such an affordance. The designer is capitalizing on shared knowledge so that the person experiencing the logo has an easy time understanding what is being said.
Because tapping into shared knowledge is easy, it risks becoming cliché. Additionally, brands that rely too heavily on common imagery can have a hard time standing out from their competitors.
How does this work in political campaigns? Fundamentally, political campaigns tend to want to say a couple things:
- I’m a patriot.
- I can be trusted.
To accomplish this, they tap into the shared language of patriotism and trust. Red, white, and blue, and state flag colors (add yellow and copper in the case of Arizona). Stars and/or stripes, evoking the US Flag. In their pictures, they’ll wear formal business attire, and frequently appear with their family to show stability.
That’s about it! Not a whole lot to go on. Which is one of the biggest reasons why campaign logos and signage all tend to look alike, except for the names.
Given that I am such a different kind of candidate, for my campaign, we decided fairly early on that we wanted that we wanted to push the limits of political branding. We wanted to communicate that I’m different, while still being recognizable as a serious campaign. What does that look like in practice?
One of the first things we had to decide was the kind of imagery we were going to use. We wanted our campaign to be uniquely Arizonan. Some of the designs we tried involved saguaro cacti and the outline of the state border. These images led to beautiful designs, but they were less obviously political. In the end, we went with a design based on the Arizona flag. It is widely recognized, clearly related to government/politics, and obviously unique to Arizona.
We experimented with the traditional flag rectangle, but ultimately thought rounding out the rays of the star created a more modern, aesthetically pleasing look.
Red, white, blue, yellow, and copper. Color was one area where we really felt like we could separate ourselves from other campaigns. We considered using colors whose shades almost never show up in the campaign world, like orange and green, to symbolize vibrancy and growth, but ultimately thought that veered to far away from expectations to be useful.
Instead, we decided to go with a color palette that, in aggregate, evokes Southwestern art. Additionally, each of the colors also has unique political meaning.
- Purple – The primary role of the purple is to signal political unity and moderate political policies, by combining the Republican red and the Democrat Blue. Purple is also symbolic of our beautiful sunsets. Generally, purple is also a color frequently associated with nobility and bravery.
- Turquoise – The primary purpose of choosing turquoise was to evoke the blue of the Democrat party, while choosing an untraditional shade, to symbolize my alliance with the party and simultaneously my independent political leanings. Turquoise also represents the Native American community, as it is frequently used in their traditional art and jewelry. It also represents our beautiful, often cloudless skies. Generally, blue represents calmness and professionalism.
- Copper/Tan – Copper anchors the Southwest art look. It also evokes humility, as copper is the metal traditionally associated with pennies, and is not used in ostentatious displays as much as gold or silver. It also speaks to valuing usefulness over attractiveness, as copper is used in everything from pipes to electronics to cookware. It’s also one of the 5 C’s of the Arizona economy, and we still mine billions of dollars worth of copper per year in our state. The tan shade evokes our desert landscape.
I’m thrilled at our choices, and at the response people are having to the color palette.
Unlike companies, politicians don’t get to choose their names, or at least they don’t have as much flexibility. That said, politicians do make a couple important name decisions.
- Short or formal name – Not all names, including my own, can be shortened up. But many can, and a person’s decision to use the full or short name communicates a feeling of being laid back or formal, maybe even approachable or distant. Can you imagine a President Don Trump? Or a President James Carter?
- Nickname – Politicians have to decide if they are going to use a nickname, and if so what they want to say with it. A nickname is an important opportunity, because it can be used to say anything. In my case, I wanted to use the name I’m known by among my Spanish speaking friends, both to communicate that I am genuinely aligned with that community’s interests, and also that I speak Spanish.
I thought Noé was commonly known by non-Spanish speakers, like “Juan” or “José,” but that hasn’t turned out to be the case. One unanticipated consequence of my nickname choice is that non-Spanish speakers have been a little confused. Still, I’m pleased with the choice, and it gives me an opportunity to talk about my commitment to the Hispanic community with non-Hispanics.
One of the main goals of my campaign is to increase primary participation by registered independents. I wanted to choose a tagline that would speak to them and motivate action. Independent Together speaks to the fact that we can each walk our own path and think for ourselves, but that we need to unite to speak up for policies that support our shared interests as independents.
A Living Brand
While many organizations design their brand once and never look back, others are constantly revising the way their brand communicates with their audience, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in big ways.
While we’re really happy with our choices, we are certainly observing the affect our brand has on our target audience, and are willing to make changes based on what we learn. We’re excited to see where things go.
What do you think about the brand? Love it? Hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
P.S. Special thanks to Devin Hanson, Tricia Principe, and Joe Shurtz for their input and hard work bringing the brand to life.
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