Brands Are Evolving to Speak More Flexibly to Different Audiences – Even in Politics

May 17, 2019 • Posted in Branding, Culture, Design, Hmmm..., News

With the immediacy of the Internet and other media, today’s cultural and consumer landscapes are evolving faster than at any time in history. We no longer blindly follow brands that once relied on their name and iconography alone. Today’s consumers question what brands do for them on a much more personal level, and how well a brand fits into their lifestyle. Because the brands we support are an extension of ourselves, and as individuals we go through change, the brands we support need to change with us and be adaptable to achieve resonance.

As a nation, we are no longer one thing or another. We are an increasingly multi-faceted mix of various ideas, styles, preferences, cultures and interests. So naturally, political campaigns should embrace this, not only in terms of policies, but in terms of brand personality – in essence, how a candidate, like a consumer product, resonates on a personal level with a broader mix of voters and world views.

A recent article in Fast Company illustrated how one candidate in the 2020 presidential race, South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, is building a branding system that not only communicates his political stances and personal history, but allows individuals and groups to show their support in ways that represent their own worldviews as much as the candidate’s.

Now, I want to say very clearly that this isn’t about politics or any kind of endorsement, but rather about “candidate-as-brand” portrayal and, just as importantly, providing adaptability of usage that communicates the brand but also helps control its depiction and implementation. That part is especially crucial in political branding, where the wide range of supporters and campaign operatives, from the national down to the almost microscopic, local level, can unintentionally whittle the brand image and message apart through a lack of central control.

Rather than choosing colors and typefaces in the standard mix political of red, white and blue, the campaign includes a wider range of colors, many in earth tones, that communicate key points about Buttigieg but are also varied enough to reflect personal traits with voters. Colors include blues, golds, earthy oranges and browns that have connections to Buttigieg’s political platform and life as a Midwesterner and Afghanistan veteran. The colors likewise convey a homey Americana. The range of typefaces is also unusually broad for a political campaign, and continue the multi-faceted Americana flavor.

The real difference, though, is that the strategy uses an online toolkit that supporters from everywhere can use in customizable, mix-and-match ways with graphic assets that make them feel they have more of a personal voice in the campaign, but still maintains brand continuity. This online library of campaign elements also differs from typical campaign tools in that the elements are available free of charge via the online toolkit. Most political campaigns use the sale of signage, swag and materials to augment fundraising. The Buttigieg campaign’s toolset allows supporters to create their own materials. To see how it works, go to

Political messaging, candidate branding and media implementation have all undergone a huge evolution in the past several electoral cycles, especially at the national level. The Buttigieg campaign’s visuals, color palette and online graphic library implementation method are yet another turn in that evolution, to meet the expectations that voters have come to expect in terms of personalization – just as they have as consumers.

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