Obama as “cutting-edge brand”

Lately I’ve been asked repeatedly how, or whether, various ideas in Buying In (particularly the you-fill-in-the-blanks aspect of murketing) might apply to politics. Laura Miller, in a Salon essay called “Barack By The Books,” suggests that perhaps the answer yes.

Obama the symbol possesses the enviable quality that Walker calls “projectability,” and Obama himself has marveled that he often seems to be “a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” He is, in short, a cutting-edge brand. But if he does win the general election, what then? A brand can’t be president of the United States….

This is just a jumping-off point for Miller’s piece, which delves deeply into Obama’s own writing, and covers a lot of highly interesting  territory. To see where she goes from there, check out the whole piece. It’s worthwhile.

On a sort-of related note: I wrote about Barackists on Murketing.com here, and in Consumed here.

Obama and I have similar design taste

I’m on record as standing against the absurd hype about Barack Obama’s logo: “drastically overrated” I boldly declared (cough) in a parenthetical aside buried deep in this inexcusably long post.

Today, NYT says:

[Obama] did not initially like the campaign’s blue and white logo — intended to appear like a horizon, symbolizing hope and opportunity — saying he found it too polished and corporate.

He didn’t like “Change We Can Believe In” either. But he’s got his priorities straight, so he let it go.

Possibly he’s shrewd enough about logo design to know that the real key isn’t aesthetic beauty, it’s overwhelming repetition. (Sorry, logo designers!)

[Big thanks: discoczech!]


Apropos of nothing at all, I typed “Obama” into the search box on Etsy, the online handmade emporium.

Results? 538 items.

“McCain” search yield: 45 items.

Ron Paul Tide remix T-shirt

Or at least that’s what I assume is going on here. From an NYT story over the weekend about Ron Paul fans.

Hipster embrace of Obama reaches logical conclusion

Finally! Obama kicks!

I assume this long since made the rounds and I missed it, but just saw and felt compelled to note.

Earlier: Let Them Eat Font; 4/13/08 Consumed on Obama as muse.

[Thanks: Mark!]

Obama & Fitch coverage

So, as clever readers may have figured out already, I’m not really around the Murketing HQ this week, I’m “on the road,” as they say. Today, in my hotel room, I’m watching the endless loop of Obama and Clinton clips, with the sound down, and I get interested in this one Obama clip, because this one kid behind him is wearing a T-shirt that catches my eye, and as I look harder I realize that there are three frat-looking white dudes behind him all wearing Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirts. I think: Weird.

When I finally get a minute to Google, I see that of course it’s been noticed by the trad press (online), and the blognoscenti.

USA Today (online) says:

We just spoke with Tom Lennox, an A&F spokesman. “I guarantee and assure you it’s not” a product placement, he said. The company was as surprised as anyone to see the three guys, Lennox added.

This is a good example of what I hate and love and hate about the Web. On the one hand, I am annoyed that my observation is already played out. On the other hand, I am pleased that others have noticed this and are on the case. On the third hand, this is just kind of triviality that the Web is best at, but I can’t really condemn anyone else for being obsessed with triviality, because I was too.

So there you have it. All I need now is a comment telling me I’m really late on this. Anybody?

Flickr Interlude

obama tees & buttonz, originally uploaded by _cheryl.

Obviously I could not resist this one.

[Join and contribute to the Murketing Flickr group]

In The New York Times Magazine: Obama art (or, Barackists: Part 2)

Does pro-Obama creativity say more about the candidate or his fans?

As noted here Friday, this week’s Consumed is about Obama as muse.

Creative types have backed politicians before, but the outpouring of Obama-promoting creativity, free of charge and for the campaign’s benefit, has been remarkable. Does it say more about the candidate — or perhaps about his supporters?

Read the column in the April 13, 2008, issue of The New York Times Magazine, or here.

Consumed archive is here, and FAQ (includes feedback/contact info) is here. Consumed Facebook page is here.

Barackists (part 1): Let them eat font

Generally I don’t say in advance what the topic of a forthcoming Consumed will be. However, the one that’s coming out this Sunday is about Obama as muse. Surely you are already familiar with the many examples of Obama-inspired art and creativity from various sources. The subject was already in the air when I started writing, and since the column has gone to press many more examples have surfaced. Plus, as indicated by the image here by Baxter Orr parodying the now-famous Shepard Fairey Obama print (via the recently revived Animal New York), it’s reached the point that some creative types are, perhaps, starting to question the nature of this particular bandwagon.

Obviously you’ll have wait until Sunday to pass judgment on my take on what this is all about, but in the meantime, I can tell you what my take isn’t: the one offered in this recent Huffington Post item suggesting that “young artists” are inspired by the Obama campaign’s supposedly awesome graphic design. I think this is silly. Or at least I hope that’s at all it is.

Read more


Notcot, writing about new Obama posters by Sam Flores and Munk One, writes:

Regardless of whether you support Obama, it’s hard not to be in awe not only of the way that Obama’s campaign has been designed, but also how impeccably designed/inspired/executed the unofficial art that has come out to support him has been as well.

It is interesting.

I wonder: What are the precedents for a candidate inspiring, in real time, so many artist pieces such as these?

Are sexist Democrats Hillary Clinton’s secret weapon?

This has nothing to do with what this site is about — although, really, what is this site about? So here goes.

I’ve listened/read/watched with some interest as people have debated how to count Hillary Clinton’s White House experience. She was First Lady — but maybe she also did really substantial stuff? Some say yes, some say no.

But at least twice now I’ve heard interviews on NPR with “regular voter” types who are supporting Hillary Clinton, who have made very different point about her White House connection. One was I think on Latino USA, the other on one of the daily shows, Day to Day, or maybe All Things Considered. (I’m not always taking notes.) What these voters — in one case a man, and in another case a couple (man and woman) — all said was in essence: Well, if she’s there, she’s got Bill with her, and he’s done this before.

The implication seems to be that Bill will either secretly run the show, or at the very least use his experience to keep his wife from making any dumb mistakes.

In other words, the point isn’t whether or not Hillary Clinton is particularly capable and has a track record that proves it. The point is that she’s married to someone with a track record.

This is not a very enlightened reason to back the person who would be our first woman president. In fact, ever since I heard the couple talking about how Bill would be there and that’s why they were voting for Hillary, I’ve thought: “Isn’t that actually a fairly sexist attitude?”

I wonder how widespread this rationale might be? I certainly don’t think the Clinton campaign has pushed the “you get Bill, too” line very hard since early in the campaign, when the press’s take is that Bill had to get to the background because he was saying things that were hurting the campaign overall. And maybe he was, with some voters.

But meanwhile, what about voters like these people? Aren’t they likely to shrug off doubts about whether Sen. Clinton’s “experience” as First Lady really amounts to anything? And aren’t they like to shrug it off for, you know, pretty bad reasons? They don’t care about her experience anyway — they’re evidently voting for her because of him.

Maybe I’m just reading too much into a couple of randomly heard NPR interviews. Or maybe this has been dealt with elsewhere in articles I’ve missed. But I wonder.

Brand in the news: Nicorette on the campaign trail

Surely you know that Barack Obama is a relatively recently reformed smoker. While there’s no question he had to give up cigarettes if he wanted to run for president, that nevertheless seems like just about most stressful possible scenario in which to kick a nic addiction. How did he do it?

An aside in this column suggests at least part of the smoking-cessation program the candidate endorses: Obama is described as “slender, chewing Nicorette and perfectly groomed in his crisp white shirt.”

Emphasis added, obviously. Pretty good real-world product placement, no?

Via The Stump.

Obama: The merch

NYT has the story: “The campaign’s online sales of gear hit $1.5 million in January, up from $380,000 in December.”

I haven’t been as blown away as some people by the Obama campaign’s graphic design, but I am impressed by one T-shirt I saw on his site the other day, and that the Times story says “has been especially popular; 700 sold out within 24 hours.” It’s this one:

So on-trend it hurts! I love the shamrock peeking into the logo.

The piece also mentions what’s probably been my favorite unofficial manifestations of Obama as muse, Shepard Fairey’s portrait:

a limited edition print with Mr. Obama’s face and the word “hope,” produced by Shepard Fairey, a graffiti artist, originally sold for $25. With all 600 sold out, the pieces are now going for as much as $1,500 on eBay, Mr. Fairey said.

Fairey unveiled that print back in January, including with the announcement his concise and straightforward statement about his motivation, and his support of the candidate. Personally my favorite thing about it is the Obey Giant icon face making a discreet cameo on Obama’s logo-pin:

More here on how this image has gotten around — and made its way onto a T-shirt via Upper Playground.

Whether any of this is meaningful to the actual primary … well, we’ll learn more today.

Political/consumer “pleasure points”

To follow up an earlier post, here’s another bit from a recent New Yorker story about consumer behavior and political behavior. A John McCain piece mentions one of his strategists, 37-year-old Steve Schmidt:

At other times, Schmidt comes alive as a sort of political Rain Man. During one back-of-the-bus conversation, he explained that in 2004, when he was working for Bush’s reëlection, “we targeted voters not where they lived but how they lived their lives, in the same way that credit-card companies do.” He went on, “And so we know, for instance, that among independent voters there are life styles and behaviors that identify them as Republicans or Democrats. For example, the GMC Yukon is a Republican vehicle, and Volvos and Subarus are the most Democratic vehicles. Republicans have Fiji water preferences, versus Democrats, who have Evian water preferences. You have a huge grouping of consumer data, so you can micro-target messages to common groups, finding pleasure points and anger points on issues.”

I don’t think it’s any surprise that Volvos are supposedly more Democrat-ish than Republican-ish, but what about that Fiji/Evian split? What’s that about?

Brands in the news: “Change you can Xerox”

That was definitely the most awesome brand-in-the-news placement since the Pottery Barn Rule. In your face Konica, Lanier, Ricoh, and other makers of copiers: Top politicians looking to smear a rival for plagiarism know Xerox is the name to brand-drop.

[UPDATE: Here is what I was waiting for.]