With the increasing role of the media in the campaigning process, candidates have to focus even more in advertising themselves to the general public in order to seem more relatable. Although management qualities are highly sought after in a presidential candidate, voters even more want someone who is relatable, and can be a servant of the people as well as their leader. In the 2008 election, President Obama was often pegged as an elitist, and was often compared to brands like BMW, and someone who was pandering to the upper echelons of American society, while his opponent was viewed as a maverick; a simple man who drove Fords and still used AOL. It seems that the shoe is on the other foot in this election cycle, with talk often sticking around Mitt Romney’s upper class status as well as his involvement with Bain Capitol, and President Obama being associated with a much more Middle Class vibe. In a poll taken by Landor and Penn Schoen Berland, participants were asked to compare the two candidates to some well known brands, divided into six different categories of Entertainment, Technology, Leisure, Shopping, Food, and a category focused on Michelle Obama and Ann Romney. In all of the categories (except pie!) there is a clear divide between the candidates that is reminiscent of the class conflict between upper and middle classes. Obama racked up brands such as Nike and Ford, and is likened to activities like chess and basketball. Romney, on the other hand, was compared to the board game monopoly, as well as golf and Starbucks. Michelle Obama was likened to Macy’s, while Mrs. Romney brought up thoughts of Saks Fifth Avenue and Ralph Lauren.
It’s interesting to see the importance of the image of candidates in the election process, especially in conjunction with the consumerism that has become commonplace in American society. Although political knowledge and wherewithal is crucial to the election (for very obvious reasons), the realness of a candidate is just as important. You don’t want to seem too distant from the public, but at the same time you don’t want to seem to average, in order to avoid criticism from the other side. This is just another example of how much advertising yourself is important in the campaign series