Getting Political in Branding and Messaging

It used to be a much simpler world for brand development. The tough questions related to name, design, and color. If you were launching a new tech company circa the early 2000s, you might wonder whether to include a swoosh with your logo.

The messages – i.e. the copy surrounding the graphical components – might have been hypey but seldom were too controversial.

Today it’s more complicated, as I wrote in my post: United we Brand. We live in turbulent, divided times. It’s tempting to play it safe, but companies and their leaders are either being dragged into politics or proactively taking stands and speaking out.

What does this mean for the arts of messaging and brand development? I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday which made me wonder where all this is going. It reported that major advertisers are taking brand safety to a new level – by blacklisting news stories based on political keywords mentioned in the content.

Rethinking the Brand Question Framework

It may be necessary to work with your business team to ensure that brand messaging is consistent and clear. For that, understanding target audiences may be important. Furthermore, businesses can hire creative brand messaging firms that can understand their company’s goals and customize their messaging to suit them. That said, when companies are defining their brand attributes, one of the first steps involves sitting down with an expert, who asks innocent but sometimes irritating questions. For example, if your brand was an animal, what kind would it be? These articles explain more: 7 Tips to Find your Brand’s Personality and The 8 Question Framework for Successful Rebrands.

PR messages are workshopped too, although it’s typically a less abstract exercise.

It seems certain that the questions will change based on today’s realities. Maybe companies will start hiring political messaging gurus like Frank Luntz (whom I blogged about) on the right and George Lakoff on the left (see this post) to better tell their brand stories.

You can envision a session involving a startup with no obvious political leanings, e.g. not a gun company. Say a soft drink company.

Branding and messaging guru:

OK, gang today we are going to explore your brand. Let’s start with one word, “Trump!”

Ah, OK, that’s a non-starter, never mind let’s switch gears!

We’re going to play a game called F–, Marry, Kill: AOC anyone? Kelly Conway?

Guys (and gals) the competition is polling strongly in the swing states! We need to get bold!!!

If your brand was a gun, what kind would it be?

You’re stuck on a desert island – who do you bring along? A) Bernie Sanders. B) Sean Hannity

OK, I can see where this is going. Never mind… If your brand was a tree…

Messaging Guru

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