One of the great things about the current presidential election cycle is that we have three candidates who, from a branding perspective, are totally different (however, the same can not be said for the candidates on more substantive issues, but that's a different post). We have Barack Obama, who is fresh and new. Hillary Clinton's brand is tough and smart while John McCain's brand is reliable and independent.
In other words, the candidates for president are political brands who are trying to make us buy their product. They can be likened to Coke products with Hillary Clinton as Diet Coke. She's been around for a long time and there are those who are brand ambassadors for Diet Coke, but there are others who just simply hate Diet Coke. In other words, Hilary Clinton is polarizing in the sense that not everyone sounds that she is either up to the task of being Commander-in-Chief or blame her for standing by her man, or any other host of reasons. But the fact is, most people feel certain of what they are going to get with Hillary Clinton as president, as they would when opening a bottle of Diet Coke.
John McCain is Coke Classic. Why mess with a good thing is the question many could ask about McCain. He has the military experience and certainly was around the Washington block. Like Diet Coke, you are certain what you are getting, but there is still a feeling that you might want to try something new. Many Americans are not sure they want to back McCain because he may represent more of the same Coke that we have been drinking for nearly eight years, so they may want to mix it up and try other Coke products.
Barack Obama is a new Coke product that has newly entered the marketplace. Some people like the new product and there were a lot of early adopters, but some are still not sure they are willing to try this new Coke product when they like the old ones just fine. In non-marketing speak, that means that Obama is the new kid on the block who promises to be different than the politicians we are using to having represent us in Washington. Barack Obama is in the protect testing phase. It appears that he will make it to market and do quite well.
Whatever happens, it's interesting for marketers to look at politicians as brands. When we do, we can see through the rhetoric and then really start looking at the substantive issues that will make or break a candidate's campaign and temporary presidency. It's less important if we like a candidate, want to have him or her over for dinner or share a beer. What's important is who can best run the country and help us move forward from these tough economic times.