CNHI News Service

Opinion

November 29, 2012

COLUMN: Obama knows the power of branding

— Barack Obama will never be “our Lord and Savior” as actor Jamie Foxx said this week. But he is god-like at making people see him as a transformational figure.

If Republicans want to win, they should study why people see President Obama as a messiah and emulate the tactics he uses that are so powerful artists paint him as Christ crucified and hope embodied.

Ultimately, it comes down to branding, which Republicans are about as good at as unsuccessful Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin is at explaining “legitimate rape.” In fact, a computer program created by a child could be designing most Republican advertisements and campaign material given that their motif for the past 50 years has been the same: flags and eagles combined with a candidate’s name.

Other conservative-libertarian symbols probably alienate more people than they attract. The Gadsden flag, for example, depicts a coiled, hissing rattlesnake underscored by “Don’t tread on me.” It may have been a perfect symbol for American Revolutionaries and embody the Tea Party’s distrust of government. But times have changed – a lot.

For starters, America is a lot more urban and pop culture is paramount. Young people are mostly ignorant of American history, see the Constitution as a “living” document and are not moved by symbols of our past. In fact, they likely see them as relics of a slave-holding, oppressive society.

Art critic Jed Perl wrote in the Dec. 6 issue of The New Republic that the popularity of Andy Warhol, whose advertising-inspired loud prints of celebrities and consumables that fetch millions at auction, reveal the new America. “Warholism is the dominant ism of our day, grounded as it is in the assumption that popular culture trumps all other culture, and that all culture must become popular culture in order to succeed…”

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