It may sound cliche, but politics is all about perception.
Winning an election is about a lot more than simply being the best candidate or having the best ideas. You need to create a winning strategy that portrays your candidacy in a positive light. Most voters will not know everything about your background and policy positions, and they will base their vote on their vague perceptions of the candidates. Your job as a campaigner is to shape those perceptions to your advantage.
Whether you are selling a product or a political candidate, the fundamental techniques are largely the same. You need to convince consumers or voters that what you are offering will improve their lives. You can only do this by making calculated choices and devising a sound overall strategy. The representation of your brand will be key to your efforts.
A political brand includes a number of components. You’ll need:
You can see examples of political brands all around you, especially during election years. The campaign signs so ubiquitous on American lawns are perhaps the clearest examples of the power of images in politics. With just a few square feet of space, campaigners must create the desired perception of their candidate. You can also find political branding on television ads, billboards, political mailers, and campaign vehicles. A strong campaign will utilize consistent branding across these platforms.
We make sense of the world largely through the visual data we gather from the scenes around us. This means people will base their perception of your campaign on what they see just as much as what they read or hear. In politics, images are the primary tools of the trade.
Most voters will encounter your campaign’s signage long before they read a profile or listen to an interview on the radio. This means that people’s first impression of the candidate will be based on the campaign’s imagery. First impressions are surprisingly durable, and you need them to be as positive as possible.
People are more likely to trust a brand that they perceive as consistent. If a campaign bombards voters with a hodgepodge of unrelated images, people will doubt the seriousness of the candidate. People equate consistency with professionalism and competence, qualities any candidate should seek to embody.
To be successful, campaigns need to succinctly show voters what their candidate is all about. If you are running as the plucky outsider, you need people to see your anti-establishment credentials. If you’re basing your campaign on your decades of experience, you need to shrink your resume into an easily digestible slogan. Accompanied by stylish graphics, these central themes can become a part of your political brand.
To understand just how important branding can be, all you have to do is look at recent examples from national politics. The most successful campaigns shared a sound branding strategy that masterfully incorporated sleek, powerful images.
Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election on the back of some truly impressive branding. His campaign surrounded progressive mottos about “hope” and “change” with memorable and distinct iconography. The omnipresent “O” and the soft colors portrayed a candidate people could believe in.
While Donald Trump certainly divides opinion on many issues, his 2016 campaign earns unanimous praise for the effectiveness of its graphics and messaging. “Make America Great Again” is certainly a memorable and powerful slogan, but the campaign’s true genius lay in the simplicity and strength of the images surrounding the words. The use of straight lines, rigid blocks, and bold colors projected the ethos many conservative voters were pining for.
When she ran for the House of Representatives in 2018, Alexandra Ocasio Cortez had no experience as a politician. What she did have was a progressive agenda and legitimate claim to representing the changing demographics of her district. Her campaign profited from these strengths by creating a simple poster that became the central focus of her election efforts. With a professional image of her face and her name written inside a speech bubble, the poster clearly portrayed a young candidate with a vocal political style.
While these illustrative examples come from bigger campaigns with national ramifications, they provide lessons that you can use for smaller, low budget campaigns. You might not be able to buy valuable television ad space or employ a veritable army of aids, but you can still use the basics of political branding to improve your chances of victory. By keeping the power of your campaign’s graphics and images in mind, you can create the type of material that truly sways voters at the local level.
At the heart of branding lies the concept of identity. You need to define yourself and your campaign so that voters know exactly who you are. Creating a strong identity is easier when you stick to some basic tenets of marketing.
In 2008, people only needed a brief glimpse of that iconic “O” to realize they had seen material from the Obama campaign. With recognizable and distinct imagery, you can replicate the impact of Obama’s branding on a local level. When devising a brand, your main focus should be creating images that voters will come to permanently associate with your campaign.
An original candidate needs exciting branding in order to succeed. While simplicity is important, boring stock images will never succeed in garnering the necessary attention. You need to adopt a fresh look that catches the unique spirit of the candidate. Ocasio Cortez’s speech bubble posters are a perfect example of the simple originality you should seem to capture.
Your campaign materials will not attain the recognizability they need if they are not consistent. If your signs are blue and white in some places and green and yellow in others, voters will never associate a particular color scheme with your campaign. Rather than confuse voters with a multitude of logos, you should consistently draw from a small stable of images.
The logo is the centerpiece of a campaign’s visual branding efforts. You need a sleek design that delivers a powerful message in a small package. The best way to do that is by employing strategies that have worked for countless campaigns in the past.
A logo should always be the most prominent image on any mailer, shirt, or billboard. You can make your logo more eye-catching by using an arresting color combination. You should also use lines and shapes that cause the viewer’s gaze to move across the image.
Any good logo has a single point that receives the most emphasis. Be sure to consciously direct attention toward the most important aspect of your logo. You can do this by using bright colors and bold lines.
While national campaigns might focus on television ads, local elections are often won and lost in the community’s mailboxes. A simple political mailer that lays out the candidate’s core message is the best way to hook a local voter. These printed mailers will only prove effective if they contain strong, professionally produced images. Without sound aesthetics and an eye-catching logo, your mailer will go straight in the trash before the recipient gets a chance to read your name.
The quality of the graphics and images in your branding material will have a major impact on how voters perceive your campaign. A simple black-and-white printout will not impress recipients, while a professionally crafted mailer with sleek images and eye-catching graphics will create the impression of a competent, effective candidate. Here is how you can make sure your materials are helping rather than hurting your cause.
An amateur photograph taken hastily with a smartphone might look fine on the screen, but it will come across as grainy and tasteless on mailers and political advertisements. Only a professional photograph will work for a serious politician intent on impressing future constituents.
Never skimp on campaign materials. An honest attempt to save money on graphics and images can have a disastrous effect on a campaign. People will use your materials to judge your seriousness as a candidate. It is always worth the investment to give your images the professional design your candidacy deserves.
You might have more experience and better ideas than your opponents, but people will still consider you an amateur if they find your campaign materials “cheesy.” You are asking people to elect you to a position of responsibility, and your mailers, signs, and advertisements should correspond to the seriousness of the endeavor.
You need professional graphics and images in order to win your next election, and that is exactly what Burlington Press can provide. We have the expertise to produce just the types of images that will put your campaign in pole position. Even if your opponents have a larger budget, you can give yourself an edge by contacting us and making your brand’s images a top priority.
We have a proud history of giving campaigns the boost they need. In a hotly contested election, the professionalism we bring to a candidate’s brand can be enough to make the difference.
When it comes to our successful track record, you do not need to take our word for it. Just take a look at the praise contained in a recent email from thankful clients:
“I just wanted (to) tell you guys how much I, and we, appreciate your skills and professionalism.
Luckily, (the candidate) was able to hang on and win a very tough race last night. We were outspent over 4-1 but a combination of your mail and other efforts enabled (the candidate) to win a very close race — 3% or 350 votes out of 12,000 cast.
Many thanks, and I’m looking forward to working with you again.
Wishing you and everyone at Burlington Press the best.”
Ultimately, politics is a game of winners and losers. There is no prize for second place. If you want your campaign to come out on top in the next election, you need your graphics and images to be top notch. The best way to do that is by hiring experienced experts in the field. Contact us to get started today.