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CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

Campaign Branding in Modern Politics (Research Paper)
Aedan Stranahan
Spring Hill College

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Abstract
The purpose of this research paper was to explore the topic of political branding and how it was
utilized in the 2016 presidential campaigns. An analysis of the secondary research indicated that
political branding has been utilized by the American political system since the appointment of
the first president. The research also revealed that the process of political branding was almost
identical to the branding process of commercial goods. Both commercial and political brands
rely on emotional branding techniques to create strong attachments with the customers and
voters.
The researcher utilized content analysis to investigate four random samples containing content
from the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Ted
Cruz. Each sample was coded for a unique set of words and phrases that corresponded with each
brand. Analysis of the samples indicated that the four campaigns utilized the political branding
techniques described in the reviewed literature.
Keywords: branding, political branding, cultural identity theory, semiotic theory

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS
Table of Contents
Introduction……………………………………………………………………pg. 4
Literature Review……………………………………………………………...pg. 5
Methodology…………………………..………………………………………pg. 17
Results………………………………………………………………….……...pg. 19
Conclusion………………………………………………………………….....pg. 26
Works Cited……………………………………………………………………pg. 28
Appendices…………………………………………………………………….pg. 33

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Introduction
The purpose of this research paper was to explore the topic of political branding.
“Branding and franchising, which are common features of commerce, have, more recently,
permeated into politics in a number of ways” (Marsh & Fawcett, 2011, p.515). Businesses,
corporations and now governments and political candidates are feeling the pressure to stand out
from the competition. Companies with strong brand images are succeeding while competing
products with weak brand messages are phased out (Singer, 2002). These tactics have not gone
unnoticed and in recent years the use of branding in politics has increased.
Research Question
Milewicz and Milewicz (2014) state “political marketing research indicates that brands
and branding are a robust aspect of politics.” Based on the information that political branding has
become a common practice the following research question was examined: In what ways is
political branding being utilized by current presidential campaigns?
Purpose/Rationale
The purpose of the research paper was to uncover what branding techniques were being
used by four of the 2016 presidential candidates. This is important to understand for two reasons.
The first is that voters need to be aware that political candidates are being branded similar to
commercial goods. If the voters have the right information they may be better equipped to make
unbiased decisions on who to vote for. Holt (2006) stated:
Today branding is a core activity of capitalism, so must be included in any serious
attempt to understand contemporary society and politics. Yet, despite its social

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significance, branding has rarely been subject to concerted empirical examination and
theoretical development outside of business schools (p.300).
This shows another important reason why communication professionals should know how
branding is being used. Knowing branding techniques and how the process effects voters will
help communication professionals better understand politics and society. This will also help
professionals ensure political campaigns are run both successfully and ethically.
Literature Review
Branding
In order to understand political branding it is important to first understand branding. In
today’s highly competitive market it has become increasingly important for companies to
distinguish themselves from the competition. This competitive advantage hinges in part on
increasing customer satisfaction (Ulusua, 2011, p. 3933). A strong brand image will give
companies the additional competitive edge that they are seeking. Khan and Mahmood (2012)
explain that all organizations are hard at work creating and sustaining a popular brand that is
widely accepted (p. 33). Simply put brand image is the “consumers understanding and evaluation
of a product” (Ulusua, 2011, p. 3933), but it is actually much more intricate than its definition.
Brand image starts with brand awareness. Brand awareness represents a condition in
which the consumer becomes familiar with the brand and recalls some favorable, strong, and
unique brand associations (Asif, Abbas, Muhammad, Hussain, & Hussain, 2015, p. 68). Once the
consumer becomes aware of the brand, the focus shifts onto the whole brand image that is being
projected. The use of a strong brand image gained popularity when evidence showed that
“feelings and images associated with a brand were powerful purchase influencers” (Ulusua,

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2011, p.3933). This suggests that customers aren’t just buying a product but also the images and
feelings associated with the brand, such as sophistication, power, and common values. The most
successful brands seem to actually have personalities (p. 3934). In fact the personification of
brands became increasingly popular in the 1980’s. According to Ulusua (2011) “good brand
images are instantly evoked, are positive, and are almost always unique among competitive
brands” (p.3934).
Needham (2005) agrees with Ulusua on what constitutes a good brand. She claims that
there are six criteria for a successful brand (p.347). The first is to simplify the message, and stick
to the most important pieces of information. Overloading the customer with information can just
end up confusing them and the brand image will be lost. The second is to have a unique message.
When customers are confronted with two similar products the customer will choose the product
with the better brand. Advertising strategists say that in today’s market place it is not about the
performance of a product but actually the personality and attributes of the brand (p.348). Third is
to “minimize consumer perception of risk” (p.348). Reassurance can lead to consumer
willingness to pay more. The fourth criterion is aspiration, brands should evoke the promise of
personal enhancement within a customer. “Successful brands offer an emotional link to a desired
way of life” (p.348). Fifth a brand needs to ensure that the internal values of the company are
consistent with the brand. For example Volvo’s brand is safety and reliability. This brand
underlines what the company will be focusing on during development of products. The final
criterion is credibility, a brand must always deliver on what is promised. Without credibility
brand image fails (p.348). When a company ensures that its brand meets all these criteria it will
have a strong brand image which will help it stand out from its competitors in the marketplace.

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History of Political Branding
Political branding can be traced back to our very first commander and chief, George
Washington. Even in an uncontested campaign Washington was branded as the deliverer of the
country and hero of the revolutionary war (Bourdon, 2011, p.178). Washington did not have any
competition or an official campaign but still had a strong brand image that is remembered to this
day.
While Washington had a brand, the first candidate to really capitalize on a political
branding campaign was Andrew Jackson who was also known by the nickname Old Hickory.
Jackson successfully framed the election as “plowmen versus the professor” (p.179). Jackson’s
team created the image of a rugged frontiersman who understood the common people. On the
flip side the campaign painted Jackson’s opponent, John Quincy Adams, as an overly educated
aristocrat who could never understand the needs of the common people. Jackson’s team realized
that “giving voters a simple choice between candidates based on symbolism would probably be
more effective than giving the electorate complicated choices based on stances concerning
complex economic issues” (p.178). The symbolism of Old Hickory proved to be key for the
Jackson campaign and the development of the government in the mid-1850’s.
Political Branding
Politicians and governments have noticed how successful big corporations develop and
capitalize a strong brand image to their advantage. While branding has been used throughout our
political history it seems that it is being strategically utilized by our governments and politicians.
In fact Marsh & Fawcett (2011) say that almost every aspect of government is branded from
countries, to public policies, and political candidates (p. 516). Countries, states and cities brand

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themselves to attract tourists and shape the character of nationalism and democracy (p.517).
While branding runs through all aspects of government it is perhaps most utilized by political
candidates during election times. When running for Prime Minister in 1997 Tony Blair ran with
the brand of New Labour government. The New Labour brand represented a shift from the old
government and operated on the “functional values of openness, modernity, economic orthodoxy,
and redistributory social policy” (Newman, 2002, pg. 48). Blair’s advisors were actively
cultivating brand image and sent multiple memos speaking of the New Labour brand (Needham,
2006, p.349). On his first day of office Blair declared “We campaigned as New Labour, we will
govern as New Labour” (p.344). This indicated that the brand would become a part of his
governing and not just his campaign. While in office more memos were sent by the head of the
Strategic Communication Unit, Peter Hyman, stating that the brand values of the campaign had
been weakened and there was a need to “reinvent the New Labour brand” (p.349). This was just
another example of a political campaign actively cultivating a brand image.
Understanding the Voter
While political branding is on the rise there are still political candidates who try and fail
to stand out from the competition. Having a successful political brand image depends on multiple
factors which are equivalent to the branding steps for commercial products. The connection
between political and commercial branding techniques is apparent when product brands are
being personified. The same principles that are used to market commercial goods can be used to
market political figures (De Lima, 2004).
To understand effective political branding it is crucial to first, understand the customer,
which is in this case is the voter. Timmerman & Shields (2014) describe four types of customers:
fully engaged, engaged, not engaged and actively disengaged. Fully engaged customers have a

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very strong emotional attachment to the brand and are the most likely to be attitudinally loyal.
Fully engaged customers are “true brand ambassadors” (p.36) and will be the most valuable and
profitable. Brand ambassadors are the most valuable because they draw more attention to the
brand and will actively promote the brand message. Brand ambassadors can persuade other less
engaged customers to switch brands. Engaged customers are emotionally attached but do not
have a strong loyalty to the brand. They can be persuaded to switch products or candidates if
they find a more attractive option. Not engaged customers have an indifferent attitude about the
brand and are in no way emotionally attached. Actively disengaged customers are completely
detached from the brand. These customers may even become angry and resistant towards the
brand (p.36). The main goal of a political campaign is to gain the support and following needed
to win on Election Day. Understanding these categories helps a campaign understand the levels
of influence they have over the voters.
Emotion in Political Branding
The categories of consumer show the use of emotion in branding can be crucial.
Timmerman & Shields (2014) explain that creating a realistic and sustainable brand image takes
a lot of work. It requires the campaign to make an “effective brand promise” and have a “deep
understanding of the impact of emotion on customers” (p.35). Understanding the needs,
expectations and challenges of many citizens in all parts of a country is critical in effective
political party branding and understanding citizen’s emotions (How to best brand your political
party, 2014). According to Khumalo (2014) “Each election campaign will aim to create trust,
relationships and hope by making promises and demonstrating passion and capacity to deliver
such promises.” This is essentially the campaigns brand. A strong brand that connects with voters
on an emotional level leads to an emotional attachment to the brand. Emotional brand attachment

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is defined as “the positive emotional outcomes of a strong connection between a consumer and a
brand” (Dunn & Hoegg, 2014, p.153). The use of positive emotion in branding enhances the
chances of having fully engaged voters. Recent research shows that “fear, a negative emotion,
can have positive outcomes on brand evaluation” because it “facilitates the attachment process”
(p.153). When voters are faced with a negative emotional experience, they seek ways to cope
with their fear. Political campaigns can use voter fear as part of a brand because “fear leads to the
desire to affiliate or connect with others” (p.153). Candidates who capitalize on fear may have
more fully engaged voters than those that do not use that tactic.
Using Traits as a Brand
When citizens vote they are not just voting for a party and a candidate, they are voting for
beliefs, attitudes, appearances and promises. Marsh and Fawcett (2011) argue that voters use
political brands as a way to reinforce their own views of themselves by forming a “relationship”
with the leader (p.519). In order to have a strong brand image the candidates need to be able to
brand themselves appropriately and they need to understand and align themselves with their
stakeholders’ cultures, concerns, challenges and aspirations (Khumalo, 2014). Doing this will
convert the target audience of a campaign into engaged voters.
An effective political brand reflects the needs of the constituents while creating an
emotional relationship between the brand and the voters. Pilch and Turska-Kawa (2015) expand
on effective political branding by showing evidence that suggests the personality traits of a
politician are also becoming increasingly more important. Ulusua (2011) explains there are two
ways to use personality traits in branding:

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The first involves describing the product as if it were a human being, suggesting that the
brand has a distinct personality of its own. The second focuses on associating the
consumer's personality or self concept with the image of the product or brand. (p.3934)
This is turning into a significant variable because political brands are becoming more and more
personalized because it is the image of the political leader which constitutes the actual product.
Studies show that voters are more likely to vote for the politician whose personality is seen as
compatible with the ideology of the political party of their preference, and whose traits are
compatible with their own” (Pilch &Turska-Kawa, 2015).
Integrating Personal Branding
The use of favorable traits in branding has led candidates to integrate personal branding
into their political brand. Groskop (2008) states that in this digital age none of us can avoid the
reality that we are brands (p.28). Groskop stresses the importance of defining a personal brand
before the competition labels the campaign with an unfavorable brand. A strong personal brand
will be simple and focused. The brand should pick a few of the strongest traits and use these
traits as the main component of the personal brand. These traits should correspond with the needs
and culture of the voters that the campaign is targeting. A personal brand will present a clean,
clear image that is unique and memorable (p.28). This provides another way for the candidates to
connect with their constituents. The combination of these components make up the political
candidates’ personal brand and in turn, becomes part the campaign’s political brand. All
components of the personal brand should stay consistent once the brand is introduced. Any
variation from the original brand will cause the personal brand to lose credibility. The candidate
with a strong, unique and consistent personal brand that corresponds with the core values of
his/her constituents is most likely to succeed (p.29).

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Brand Trust
Strong credible brand image is important because it builds trust between the brand and
the voter. Ulusua (2014) explains that trust is “an important variable affecting human
relationships at all levels” and is “an integral feature of human relations” (p.3935). Ulusua goes
on to define trust as "a generalized expectancy held by an individual or group that a word,
promise, verbal or written statement of another individual or group can be relied on" (p.3935).
Research shows that there are some essential components to brand trust. First a voter has to be
comfortable with relying on the “promises of value the brand creates” (p.3936). The voter has to
be trusting enough to take a sort of risk when choosing the brand. Second the brand has to exude
“confidence and security” (p.3936). Voters are less likely to trust a brand that does not seem
secure or confident with the brand message. Lastly to create brand trust requires the brand to
assign “attributions to the brand such that it is regarded as reliable and dependable” (p.3936).
This corresponds with all previous research on how to create a strong brand image. Strong brand
image creates brand trust which leads to brand loyalty and fully engaged voters.
Summary
The technique of branding has been used to sell commercial products but has also been
used to sell political candidates. Recently the use of branding in political campaigns has risen.
This literature review shows that political branding is essentially the integrated use of a personal
brand within the campaign brand. The use of the personal brand puts an emphasis on common
characteristics and traits between the candidate and the voters within the target market. This
causes an emotional connection to occur. Campaigns rely on these emotions to persuade voters to
join the campaign and become fully engaged voters. Some research indicates that the use of fear
can create even stronger bonds between voters and their chosen candidate. Campaigns that have

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strong brand images most likely have a consistent message that clearly constructs the core
characteristics of the candidate. These characteristics should line up with the needs and
characteristics of the target audience. The goal of this branding is to create fully engaged voters
who will not only vote for the campaign but will also spread the campaign message.
With the literature showing that branding had become so integrated into politics, there
was no doubt that campaigns in the 2016 presidential election was utilizing some aspects of the
branding process.
Theoretical Underpinnings
Cultural Identity Theory
According to the reviewed literature political and campaign branding greatly relies on the
emotions and attachments of voters. The goal of each campaign is to gather a following great
enough to get the candidate elected to office. Cultural identity is a form of self-identification
through belonging to a certain group. It consists of values, meanings, customs and beliefs that are
used to relate to the world (Cultural identity theory, 2010). These values, meanings, customs, and
beliefs are used in political branding to persuade voters to join a campaign. The campaigns are
using the cultural identities of their voters to find a common ground. Cultural Identity Theory is
defined as “how individuals use communicative processes to construct and negotiate their
cultural group identities and relationships in particular contexts” (Cultural identity theory, 2010).
A voter’s identity can be influenced by many things, including political conditions. “Forming a
cultural identity involves making choices about the cultures one identifies with and deciding to
join the cultural community to which one belongs” (Cultural identity theory, 2010). This is
exactly what voters do when deciding who to vote for and support. Voters will pick the campaign

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that aligns with their own values and beliefs. Cultural identity theory states that culture is one of
the many identities expressed in communication encounters and that the cultural identity will
become apparent through communication interaction. Members of cultural groups will compare
their own standing to that of other groups. This is exactly what happens within political
campaigns and parties.
Once a voter has found a cultural identity within a campaign there are “properties to the
manner in which members of a group communicate their identity” (Cultural identity theory,
2010). The first is avowal and ascription. Avowal is how one describes or expresses his/her
views about group identity. It is how one presents oneself to another. Ascription is how others
perceive an individual. It is how one refers to others. In terms of the research paper these are the
levels of engagement of the voters. Avowal is the level at which a voter is descriptive of their
political cultural identity. Those voters who loudly proclaim their political stances are avowed as
a fully engaged voters. Those who voice dissent for the same brand are actively disengaged.
Ascription is not only how the campaign views its own voters but how a political group refers to
an opposing political group.
The second way voters communicate their identity is through modes of expression. This refers
to:
The use of core symbols (expressions of a group’s cultural beliefs and theories about the
world around them), names, labels and norms (expected standard of behavior) that a
cultural community share and follow in order to show that they belong to a particular
group, demonstrates shared identity (Cultural identity theory, 2010).

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In terms of political branding these are the ways that voters communicate their belonging to a
campaign. Voters who become part of a political following will have a certain set of values that
are common throughout the group. For example voters who supported Obama in the 2008
elections would support the core value of change in American politics. They would share the
label of democrat and the values of equality and hope for a better future. The expected norms of
behavior would be acceptance for all races and ethnicities. They would also use the Obama logos
and symbols to decorate their cars or lawns to show their cultural identity to the world around
them.
The third property of cultural identity are the different levels at which the voter has an
identity. There is the individual level where voters’ interpret their own identity based on their
own experiences and the communal identity. The communal identity is the “creation, affirmation
and negotiation of shared identity” (Cultural identity theory, 2010). A political campaign aims to
target voters on an individual identity level in order for the communal identity to be reached.
Communal identity leads to a stronger following for a political candidate.
The fourth property is enduring and changing aspects of identity. Voter identity is not a
concrete notion that once set cannot be changed. The aim of political campaigns is to create a
brand image that will connect with the voter on a level so that there is strong loyalty within the
group. This however does not mean that the aspects of the identity of both the individual and the
cultural group will not change. This is why a strong brand image that creates fully engaged
voters is so critical to political campaigns.
The fifth property is affective, cognitive and behavioral aspects of identity. This focuses
on the emotional attachment that voters might have to the cultural identity. A successful
campaign will bring together voters with common beliefs and values. This can cause voters to

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feel that they are part of a group and they can become emotionally attached to not only the brand
and candidate but also the cultural group with which they identify. This can be particularly true
of campaigns that use fear as a tactic. As explained above the use of fear creates a strong desire
to be affiliated with a group. The stronger the cultural identity the stronger the following is for
the campaign.
Sixth is the content and relationship levels. This is the idea that interactions “show the
relational level based on how a person delivers the message” (Cultural identity theory, 2010).
The level of the message implies who is in control, what feelings are involved and the closeness
between the speaker and the listener. This is important to campaign branding because the
candidate needs to be able to communicate on a level that shows that he or she is in charge while
simultaneously communicating trust and closeness. This can be simple for campaign brands that
have already aligned themselves with the key issues and concerns of the constituents.
The last property of cultural identity is salience or prominence. This refers to the levels at
which the cultural identity stands out and attracts attention (Cultural identity theory, 2010). This
of course varies depending on context. A campaign brand should aim to create prominent cultural
identity holders because they are basically fully engaged voters. Voters who show prominence in
any given situation show strong investment and involvement in an identity.
All properties of cultural identity theory line up with tactics used to build strong brands.
The goal of a political brand is to create a strong following or in other words a group that shares
a cultural identity. This theory ties into the research paper seamlessly and the properties of the
cultural identity theory can be found in every tactic that can be used by a political brand.

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Contemporary Semiotic Theory
According to contemporary semiotic theory language is formed through culture. “Users of
a common language form what is called a ‘speech community’” (Irvin, 2012). These speech
communities assign meaning to symbols in accordance with the subculture. These symbols
become the signs of the culture. “The signs of a culture can be analyzed for how societies
construct, produce, and circulate meanings and values” (Irvin, 2012).
This theory draws a parallel to the cultural identity theory in how it identifies subcultures
and the modes of expression within the subcultures. Both theories highlight the importance and
influence these subcultures have on identification and communication.
Methodology
The researcher utilized content analysis to investigate four samples containing content
from four of the 2016 presidential campaigns.
The researcher gathered campaign materials from the presidential candidates Donald
Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. Convenience sampling was used to gather
promotional materials from each campaign as well as transcripts of speeches, rallies and debates.
After the sample was collected the researcher prepared to analyze the content by choosing terms
to code for within the sample. The process of content analysis uses coding as selective reduction.
By reducing the text to categories consisting of a word, set of words or phrases, the researcher
could focus on, and code for, specific words or patterns that were indicative of the research
question (Busch et al., 2012). Although recent developments have created computer programs
that can help with quantitative content analysis. The researcher did not have access to such
programs and did all coding manually. The use of coding also helped the researcher stay

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objective. Each campaign had similar themes to the words and phrases that were coded but each
campaign had its own set of coded words and phrases. This was due to the different brand that
each campaign presented. The set of coded words and phrases for one campaign sample would
yield different results if coded for in a different campaign sample.
The Donald Trump sample was coded for the terms and phrases: leader, winner, business
man, deal, successful, these people and violent action words (Appendix A). The Hillary Clinton
sample was coded for the words: children, our, everyone, champion, tough, equality, family and
woman (Appendix B). The researcher coded the Bernie Sanders sample for the terms: together,
billionaires, rich, working class, poverty/poor, equality, diversity, political revolution, wealth and
the people (Appendix C). Lastly the Ted Cruz sample was coded for the terms: god, family,
conservative, rights, truth/trust, faith, small government and constitution (Appendix D).
The researcher used content analysis because it looked directly at communication via
texts or transcripts and provided insight into complex models of human thought and language
use. This process helped the researcher understand the central aspects of the social interaction
between the campaigns and the voters (Busch et al., 2012). It was also an unobtrusive way of
analyzing interactions between voters and candidates and meant that the researcher did not have
to fill out any IRB permissions.
Once the researcher constructed the codes for each campaign the researcher manually
analyzed the sample for recurring themes. These themes revealed the brand of each campaign as
well as some of the branding strategies that each campaign used.

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Results
Donald Trump
The coded sample showed that Donald Trump’s brand centered on the idea that he was a
great leader who always wins (Appendix A). The research revealed that the words “leader”,
“winner” and “deal” were the most repeated throughout the sample. The sample contained the
word “leader” 24 times and the word “winner” 34 times while the phrase “business man” was
only used four times within the same sample. This implied that while Trumps previous success as
a business man was being highlighted in his brand image, there was more stress being put on the
successful deals and leadership that Trump achieved during that time.
Trump’s brand also had a clear slogan that was displayed upon any podium that he stood
at (Trump, 2016). The slogan “Make America Great Again” can be found labeled across almost
every item in his online gift shop. Trump also promoted and wore a signature red baseball cap
with the words of the slogan displayed in large white letters (Trump, 2016). The sample showed
that the Trump campaign had a clear and concise brand that effectively communicated the brand
message to the brands target market.
The sample was also coded for violent action words such as “kill”, “murder” and
“torture”. Violent action words were used 40 times within the sample. The analysis showed that
these words were used more than the main brand theme words. The use of so much violent
terminology allowed the researcher to infer that Trump’s brand was utilizing fear as a branding
technique.

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Hillary Clinton
Analysis of the sample indicated that Hillary Clinton’s brand centered on her maternal
concern for families and children (Appendix B). Within the sample the word “children” was
found 48 times, the word “family” was found 27 times and the word “woman” was found 24
times. This indicated that Clinton’s brand theme focused on the most unique aspect of her
campaign. Having a woman’s perspective allowed the campaign to focus on her ability to
empathize with the campaigns target market of women and families. The word “our” was used
12 times while the word “tough” was only found once within the sample. The researcher deduced
that the repeated use of the unifying word reinforced the brand theme of empathy for the brands
target market.
Clinton’s brand slogan “Fighting for Us” was prominently displayed on the podium and
walls during all public appearances and rallies within the sample (Clinton, 2016). The use of
another unifying word in the slogan furthered Clinton’s brand of empathy. The campaign stressed
the importance of her success as a business woman by incorporating the image of a pantsuit.
Using contemporary semiotic theory the researcher was able to deduce the meaning of this sign
within the Clinton brand “speech community” (Irvin, 2012). Pantsuits are the female version of a
business suit and, within the American culture, can signify a successful business woman. The
Clinton campaign capitalized on this by making the pantsuit a symbol of Clinton’s female power.
The Clinton online gift shop offers a “pantsuit tee” with the words “Pantsuit Up” on the back
(The Everyday Pantsuit Tee, n.d.). The image and meaning of the pantsuit supported Clinton’s
brand image by highlighting her success as a business woman.

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Bernie Sanders
The sample for the Bernie Sanders campaign indicated a brand image that centered on
being a movement based on the needs of the people (Appendix C). Bernie Sanders campaign also
branded him against money in politics. The word “together” was found 30 times within the
sample and the phrase “the people” was found 25 times. This finding allowed the researcher to
deduce the main theme of a campaign for the people. In addition the word “billionaire” was used
21 times and the word “wealth” was found 26 times within the sample. The repeated use of these
words strengthened the brand by supporting the campaign message of being against big money in
politics.
The Sanders campaign slogan “A Future to Believe In” tied into the brand message as
well. The message of the campaign was to eradicate big money and controlling interests from
politics. Sanders campaign slogan reflected a hopeful future for citizens where the people’s
interests would be reflected in the democratic process instead of the interests of the wealthy.
According the reviewed literature and cultural identity theory the slogan revealed that the
Sanders campaign utilized the effects of positive emotions to create fully engaged voters.
Sander’s campaign also used imagery to support the brand image. The sample showed
Sanders often used hand movements and gestures like waving and pointing while speaking
(Sanders, 2016). These gestures are generally associated with moments of passion. After a social
analysis using semiotic theory the researcher concluded that these gestures paired with the brand
message created a sign for the Sanders subculture. These passionate gestures indicated a strong
leader who would passionately and accurately represent the common people’s interest.

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Ted Cruz
The sample indicated the Ted Cruz brand focused on a real conservative family man who
strongly believed in defending the constitution (Appendix D). The most repeated word within the
sample was “conservative” used 29 times. Additionally the word “rights” was used 24 times and
“constitution” used 22 times. The repeated use of these words indicated the main theme focused
on Cruz’s proven conservative record of defending voter’s constitutional rights.
The slogan for the Cruz campaign was not as clear as the message. There were multiple
slogans that were prominently displayed in images and in text throughout the sample. Two of the
most utilized slogans were “Proven Conservative” and “TrusTed” (Cruz, 2016). Both slogans
tied into the brand message but the brand was less defined due to the slogan not being clear.
The sample also showed that the Cruz campaign tied family into the brand image by
utilizing the image of the candidate’s family. Every picture on the introduction page of the Ted
Cruz website includes Cruz posed with his wife and two daughters (“Meet Ted,” n.d.). Semiotic
theory allowed the researcher to deduce that the campaign used the imagery of the Cruz family
as a sign that reflected the good conservative values of the brand to its constituents.
Discussion
The sample indicated that all the campaigns utilized political branding in various ways.
Trump, Clinton and Sanders all had very strong overall brand messages while Cruz had a slightly
less defined brand. The sample also revealed that the Clinton, Sanders and Cruz campaigns all
used some sort of imagery to support the brand image and message while the Trump campaign
did not.

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

23

Donald Trump
The Donald Trump campaign brand centered on Trumps ability to lead and make great
deals. His brand portrayed a winner and a successful business man. The use of positive traits
supported the brand image and corresponded with the literature review. The slogan “Make
America Great Again” supported the brand image and tied into the Trump campaign theme of
leadership and success. The emphasis on his previous success gave his supporters something to
trust. The reviewed literature allowed the researcher to infer the trust created an emotional
attachment between the voter and the candidate. This effect was intensified as Trump used fear
inducing words and phrases such as “murder”, “kill” and “torture”(Appendix A). Violent fear
inducing words like this were found frequently within the sample showing that the Trump
campaign was using fear as a branding technique. The slogan “Make America Great Again”
supported the brand image as well. The use of the action word “make” allowed the brand to
imply Trump’s ability to lead. These findings corresponded with the main brand themes of
leadership and success found within the sample.
The sample indicated that the Trump campaign used both positive and negative emotional
responses to connect with the target market. The Trump campaign was the only sample found to
have used fear as a branding technique. The Trump campaign also did not utilize imagery and
signs in the same way as the other candidates sampled.
Hillary Clinton
Clinton’s campaign had a clear brand that centered on her ability to understand the
women and families of America and the ability to advocate for that target market. The imagery of
the pantsuit reinforced the message of Clinton’s success as a professional. The brand highlighted

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

24

her success to give her credibility, which, according to the literature review, eased the fears of
constituents and built a sense of trust between the voter and the candidate. The campaign built on
this emotional connection by emphasizing Clinton’s unique ability to empathize with the
struggles that face women and families. The repeated use of the words “children”, “woman” and
“family” throughout the sample revealed the main themes of the brand and highlighted Clintons
unique perspective as a the only woman. The campaign slogan “Fighting for Us” furthered the
theme of empathy by using a unifying term. The slogan also created an “Us vs. Them” mentality
between Washington and the constituents. The unifier within the slogan allowed Clinton to align
herself with the voters and furthered her brand image of empathy.
The Clinton campaign used many branding techniques to emphasize the main brand
theme. The campaign constructed effective signs within the Clinton subculture that strengthened
the brand image. The sample showed the Clinton campaign was heavily relying on the use of
emotion to create brand attachments between the candidate and the voters.
Bernie Sanders
The Sanders brand centered on the needs of the people. The sample showed that his
emphasis was on removing big money and special interests from the political process so that the
interests of the people could be accurately represented. The coded sample indicated the main
theme. The Sanders campaign made an effort to connect the candidate and the voter by
demonstrating a deep understanding of the core values of the target market. This understanding
allowed the voters to trust that Sanders would represent the needs of the constituents when
elected. The Sanders subculture was further drawn to the image of the candidate while speaking
to the public. The passionate gestures offered a sign of reassurance to the voters that Sanders was

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

25

fiercely fighting for the rights of people. The slogan “A Future to Believe In” promised a better
future and supported the main brand theme.
The sample and analysis showed the Sanders campaign successfully used several
branding techniques. The brand identified core values of the target market and used imagery and
emotion to create connections with the voters.
Ted Cruz
The Cruz campaign branded Cruz as a wholesome conservative politician and family
man. The sample illustrated that the brand themes centered on the constitution and the voters
God-given rights. This showed that the Cruz campaign was utilizing the understanding of the
constituents’ core values. This understanding allowed the campaign to brand Cruz and emphasize
the common traits between the constituents and Cruz. These branding techniques allowed an
emotional connection to form between the candidate and the voters. According to semiotic theory
the campaign used the image of the Cruz family as a sign that reflected the main brand theme of
a wholesome conservative family man. While the message and the supporting images were easily
identified within the sample the campaign slogan was more difficult to define. There were many
slogans and images throughout the sample. Two of the most frequently used slogans were
“Proven Conservative” and “TrusTed”. While both slogans accurately reflected the main brand
themes, a main brand slogan could not be identified from the sample.
The Cruz campaign had a strong brand with a clear brand message despite the lack of
main brand slogan. The images of the Cruz family successfully reflected the main brand theme.
The Cruz campaign identified the needs of the constituents and branded accordingly.

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

26

Conclusion
The analysis if the reviewed literature illustrated the use of political branding and the
intense similarities the process has to the branding of commercial products. The analysis
indicated that successful brands have clear and concise brand messages that align with the core
values of the target market. The reviewed literature also explained the use of emotion in branding
was to create stronger brand attachments between the voters and the brands. The literature
indicated a strong brand had the ability to emphasize unique attributes and the ability to reassure
and gain the trust of the target market.
According to the analysis of both the primary and secondary sources the researcher
concluded that the four current presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie
Sanders and Ted Cruz are branding their campaigns using techniques identified in the secondary
research. Every candidate sampled utilized a knowledge of their target markets core
values,which helped the brand market to that demographic. The sample showed every candidate
used some aspect of emotion to create a stronger connection to the voters as well. Each campaign
brand also reflected the unique perspective of the candidate. The analysis of the primary research
indicated all branding techniques the campaigns utilized were outlined in the secondary research.
All campaign brands made an effort to connect with the constituents on a deeper level in order to
create fully engaged voters.
Limitations
Although the research showed that four presidential candidates were utilizing branding
techniques in their campaigns, there were limitations of the research that could have affected the
results. The first of these limitations was the sample size. The sample consisted of four

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

27

presidential campaigns out of the 23 campaigns that started the presidential race. Most of the
original 23 campaigns had dropped out of the race but the sample could have been larger and
incorporated more campaign brands. The use of more campaigns could have resulted in a change
of the results. The second limitation identified was the sample content. The researcher was not
able to code and analyze all promotional material and transcripts provided by each campaign. A
smaller qualitative amount was analyzed instead of large quantitative sample. If a larger
quantitative sample had been analyzed the data collected might have shown different brand
messages. A third limitation was the process of manual coding. Manual coding and analysis
offered the possibility of human error on the part of the researcher. Codes could have been
confused and recorded wrong when being manually entered.
Implications
The research implied that political branding was being strongly utilized in the four
presidential campaigns that were sampled. The researcher implied that next step to continue the
research would be to investigate and understand the impact that these branding techniques are
having on the constituents. The researcher elaborated that it would be important to understand
the level of awareness the voters have of the branding techniques being utilized. If voters were to
be made aware of the level of branding the campaigns implement, it could lead to a more
informed decision making process .The researcher suggested the importance of further research
due to the apparent correlation between Donald Trump’s brand technique of fear and the
behavior of fully engaged voters.

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28

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Appendices List

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS
Content Analysis: Donald Trump……………………………………………Appendix A
Content Analysis: Hillary Clinton……………………………………………Appendix B
Content Analysis: Bernie Sanders………………………………………..…..Appendix C
Content Analysis: Ted Cruz…………………………………...……..………Appendix D

Appendix A: Content Analysis: Donald Trump

33

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

Content Analysis: Donald Trump

34

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

35

Coded Terms

Number found in Sample

Leader

24

Winner

34

Business man

4

Deal

19

Successful

13

These people

14

Violent Action Words

40

Appendix B: Content Analysis: Hillary Clinton

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

Content Analysis: Hillary Clinton

36

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

37

Coded Terms

Number found in Sample

Children

48

Our

12

Everyone

5

Champion

3

Tough

1

Equality

3

Family

27

Woman

24

Appendix C: Content Analysis: Bernie Sanders

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

38

Content Analysis: Bernie Sanders
Coded Terms

Number found in Sample

Together

30

Billionaires

21

Rich

4

Working class

8

Poverty/Poor

8

Equality

14

Diversity

3

Political Revolution

7

Wealth

26

The People

25

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

Appendix D: Content Analysis: Ted Cruz

39

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

Content Analysis: Ted Cruz

40

CAMPAIGN BRANDING IN MODERN POLITICS

41

Coded Terms

Number found in Sample

God

12

Family

5

Conservative

29

Rights

24

Truth/Trust

15

Faith

2

Small Government

3

Constitution

22