More on Branding Wars

A branding trick works if it gives people “the feels.” Obama was great at branding (if at little else). Remember the photo where the soles of his shoes had holes in them? Yes, totally staged, totally fake, but who cares? His audience swooned. Or remember the photo with the little black boy touching Obama’s hair? It’s an iconic, once in a lifetime image that will go into the textbooks. Again, it doesn’t matter that it’s staged. It made people put the image on their desktops as background because they liked how it made them feel.

Same with Trump’s walk through Lafayette Park last week. I’m not interested in partisanship right now. I’m discussing the matter strictly from the point of view of branding. Hope and change was a genius slogan. MAGA is complete branding genius “Feel the Bern” was genius, too.

Of course, politics is all about projecting an image and seeking photo-ops. So saying that what the Dem leaders did yesterday or Trump did in front of the church last week is a photo-op is kind of a pathetic statement. Obviously, it is. The only question here if it’s had an effect. Are the supporters (and mind you, this is addressed to those who already buy into the brand) feeling elated, excited, enthused about it? That’s the only thing that matters in branding. I’m no longer part of the left so I have no idea how the people there reacted to the Kente Kneelers. Did they get emotional? That’s all that matters. I’m not seeing why anybody would but I’m not the target audience any more.

I happen to be very curious about branding, and it’s interesting to me that many people have no idea how branding works or how powerful it is.

19 thoughts on “More on Branding Wars”

  1. What did the democrats do? I scanned the headlines of the NY Times and Washington Post, but I didn’t see anything obvious. What did they do?


      1. Well, that didn’t get nearly as much attention as the Trump Bible incident, which people are still talking about. I’d guess it was not as effective, branding-wise. Did I get “feels”? No. Especially with the costuming, it felt pandering and fake.


  2. I am from the left, although I struggle to identify with a political party from the “left” (but that has always been a problem of the left). The kneeling photo made me laugh; the bible one I forgot it as soon as I saw it. I do not know what my reactions mean.

    You obviously remember that the Democratic Party is not a left party, right? Had I been a US citizen I would not have voted democrat.


    1. “You obviously remember that the Democratic Party is not a left party, right?”

      It didn’t use to be but now it’s completely in thrall to its far-left wing. And the result is not pretty. There is no left that isn’t completely neoliberal any more. Sadly.


      1. I do not follow US politics as much as you do, but from my very distant perspective I do not think that this party is in thrall to its far-left wing, which in my view is… was…Bernie? I think that this party is still centered around figures from the right, or center-to-right, as we can see with all these candidates alligning with Biden.

        As for neoliberalism, yes, no alternative as Thatcher said.


            1. It’s U.S. tradition. See, every time a Democratic politician secures the Democratic Party’s nomination for President, the Republican Party confers on him or her the courtesy title of the most leftist politician in all of the land. They are now “far left” and have a “far left agenda.”
              The ceremony is quite secret, though rumors abound on YouTube about freemasons and lizards. Nevertheless, people pick up on it quite quickly.

              It’s like how random peers are called Your Excellency but don’t need to be excellent at everything.


              1. I don’t know about tradition but Obama never groveled in front of the Ilhan Omar type of crazy like Bernie and Biden have been doing.


          1. If you look at actual policy proposals, there is absolutely no way that Biden is to the left of Bernie. No way. Maybe Biden embraces identitarian discourses more strongly than Bernie, but that does not make him more leftist. In fact, this makes Biden your traditional, neoliberal Democrat. To paraphrase Walter Benn Michaels, the left must offer a critique of capitalism, if it is to be truly left. I strongly doubt that any actual leftist (e.g., writers at Jacobin) really believes that Biden is to the left of Bernie. That’s why some left thinkers and opinion people are wondering if they should vote for Biden at all in November. (By the way, what Fox News calls the “far left” are really mainstream liberals, like Nancy Pelosi.)


  3. I’m registered independent, and identify with neither party, but lean rightward. The kneeling stunt was really, really cringey. The Bible thing… I didn’t like the Bible part. I’m religious, and it felt awkward. But I admit to a certain amount of “feelz” when it came to just seeing the president walking around in the street outside the whitehouse, instead of being hidden away and protected inside. It was very encouraging.


  4. “Branding” is just the current version for the propaganda technique known as “labeling”. Ruling classes who own the media create a label and define it, and establish the “correct” response, and this directs the specific response among people. This stops a lot of the people from actually thinking about policy, and certainly separates the thinking (much lower %) people from the rest. It also has the effect of “truncating the antecedents” – blows away history, or an awareness thereof. It’s right out of Joseph Goebbels playbook. There really is no more extreme example of “Goebbelized public discourse” than the current western media. All labels with predetermined responses, designed to stop enough people from actually thinking sceptically.


    1. “Branding” is just the current version for the propaganda technique”

      I’d say it’s a way of operationalizing the long known truth that most voters, most of the time don’t vote based on issues but based on their subjective (and aspirational) identity.

      Trump’s followers love the self-image of confidently striding through an area of unrest with a symbol of tradition as their only armor.
      Do democrats love the self-image of crawling on their bellies and groveling?

      Although, the kneeling isn’t anything like real contrition or emotion – it’s noblesse fucking oblige ‘see how saintly and virtuous we are! aren’t you wretches lucky that we’re on your side?” which is why many that it’s aimed at are so unimpressed.


  5. The thing about being a politician is that you don’t have to get people to like you. All you really need to do is make sure that they like the other guy less.

    In your post, you said “I’m no longer part of the left so I have no idea how the people there reacted to the Kente Kneelers. Did they get emotional? That’s all that matters. I’m not seeing why anybody would but I’m not the target audience any more.”, which imo means that many others probably feel as you expressed in the last sentence, and like the left less.

    Well. If people like the left less than they did when Clinton lost the 2016 election, then it means that Clintons party will probably do even worse that in the last election, which they lost, hence suggesting that Trump is campaigning effectively.


      1. According to the numbers, he has hit his usual 54-55% disapproval rating ceiling that he doesn’t seem to go past, with an approval rating of 41%. Overall, those numbers are good for him, because they mean that at least 41% of people will vote for him against a competing politician who has never annoyed anyone, ever.

        What always happens in politics (in my observation) is that as soon as a competing politician comes along, something about that politician annoys people, hence driving votes towards the less annoying Trump.

        If he had a good opponent who actually appealed to African Americans, then I might see a problem for him. Biden, though, seems to be having severe problems with the African American community himself, which I think will cause Trump to prevail with that demographic quite soundly. – but who knows 🙂


  6. Remember, the LEFT left hates Nancy Pelosi and wants her to be primaried. But this distinction is fairly irrelevant in this instance, as both socialists and normal Dems I know are universally ridiculing the photoshoot.

    Maybe there are older white Democrats who feel differently? Idk.


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