What makes us choose Chipotle over Qdoba? iPods over Zunes? Christianity over Judaism? Marketing. You can try to convince yourself of the benefits of one product over another, but rest assured that a well-crafted marketing campaign had a lot to do with your ultimate decision. For companies, branding is everything, and therefore everywhere. With constant bombardment of ads, billboards and careful product placement, brands permeate every aspect of our lives, including politics. As with any product, a brilliant campaign can create success of viral proportions, and no greater example of such genius exists than one of the biggest and most successful advertising campaigns of the last (4) year(s): Barack Obama.
Barack Obama is cool; at least I’ve been trained to think so. With the availability of Urban Outfitters “heather grey boyfriend tees” plastered with Barack’s sultry gaze, it’s hard not to adorn your hip wardrobe with a little Obama flare. If Urban endorses him, he must be cool. Obama did not only invade uber-trendy stores, but he also found his way onto mugs, bumper stickers, bobble heads, necklaces, tote bags and much more. Along with an arsenal of merchandise, every trendy celeb backed Obama, making him that much cooler. His campaign truly succeeded in creating an identifiable and fashionable Obama brand that reached all target groups, suggesting that anyone anywhere could act as a walking Obama advertisement. In any campaign, voters can expect heavy marketing of candidates, but has it reached a level of ridiculousness to a point where we vote based on screen-printed images of the candidates rather than on the issues?
Even a stroll down Locust Walk could’ve swayed the most informed of Penn voters. That oh-so-lonely McCain table didn’t quite scream “Mr. Popularity” and those “Yes We Can” stickers just looked so damn cute! As Penn students, we should have enough smarts to vote for the right candidate, but at the same time, we do have a strong leaning to all things cool. And if we smarty-pants surrender at times to the influences of advertising, what about the less educated (the Princeton kids, if you will)? Did America vote for Barack Obama the man or Obama the brand? I trust that we made the right decisions for the right reasons, but only time will tell whether Obama can bring the change we believe in, or if he just ran a really savvy marketing campaign. Looks like we’ll have (at least) four years to find out.