“Multiple Personalities”

November 9, 2011

from CHAPTER 17 from Branding Obamessiah

S tep three. Logobama’s design presented the ability to visually integrate multiple personas—and I’m not referring only to Joe Biden. While campaign logos have always adjusted to the addition of the vice-presidential nominee on the ticket, the Obama logo visually absorbed just about everyone who cared to splice themselves in. While the rest of the campaign fold followed traditional design theory—trotting out static logos that looked the same for everyone—the Team Obama worked off “the Web 2.0 principle that we live in such a frenzied media landscape that old-fashioned static symbols blend into the background, and [that] we only respond to imagery that seems to be directed at us personally.” 15

Logobama proved to be “The Hardest Working Logo in Politics” as the campaign merged the Obama stamp with a calculated assortment of visual variations. Sender and company had transferred the design’s assets to the Obama campaign’s internal design team in the summer of 2007. Team Obama brought in John Slabyk, a brand strategist based in Chicago, and Scott Thomas, a media producer, to oversee the initial customization of the logo for twelve different identity groups, including the following: 16

An “Obama Pride” rainbow replaced the traditional red, white, and blue in the LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) version. 17

For environmental groups, the big blue “O” and the red and white stripes were color-coded an eco-friendly green. Even the trees bore witness. On Earth Day 2008, the campaign put out ads with a tree bearing the Obama stamp with the message, “Earth Day is not just an urgent call to action; it is a reminder that what is now a global effort began as a grassroots movement for change.”

Veterans against the Iraq war displayed an edition with military stars in the shape of a medal.

“Americans Abroad” had a version with an airplane and passport stamp. The out-of-town votes were solicited at votefromabroad.org.

Students got one with what can be construed as either a running track or a guitar fret taking the place of the red and white stripes.

Feminists proudly paraded the “woman symbol”—the “Mirror of Venus,” sign of the Roman goddess of love and beauty—in their edition.

The “kids” (sometimes with the “s” printed backward) version looked like a first-grade coloring project.

GO—or “Generation Obama”—aimed its sights at “young activists.” The acronym GO, to my mind, resembles the Gentleman’s Quarterly acronym GQ , as if to say: Obama is in fashion. Better, Obama is fashion. And better GQ than Fashion “R” Bama —with the “R” reversed.

The logo designed for “People of Faith”—which presumably meant primarily Christians and Jews—had a brilliant sun rising over the horizon. One blogger observed: “Put a blinding light that destroys all reason in the middle, and you’ve got an Obama logo for the born-agains.” 18

N o major ethnic group was left unchecked. Representatives of Obama’s own heritage got special notice. The African American edition was decorated with tribal ornamentation, while the Asian-American Pacific Islanders’ seal looked like a blossoming flower. The Native American version transformed the logo into a war shield with feathers, and the Latino logo looked like the bird’s-eye view of a sombrero. Arabs and Jews had logos transliterated into Arabic and Hebrew. The rest of the world was lumped under the umbrella hyphenation “European and Mediterranean-Americans for Obama.” The only continents unaccounted for were Antarctica and Australia. Republicans and Independents supporting Obama got their own identity logos, and versions were customized for all fifty states—not fifty-seven per Obama’s infamous miscount. Obama’s design team personalized Logobama by transcribing onto its empty “O” just about every major group that could be subjected to market research. The team aimed at covering the widest demographics of race, gender, age, special interest, and voting locale. The objective was obvious. The electorate was fragmented and diverse, and Logobama would unify the admixture. Conventional symbols for each identity group—rainbows and military stars and ecology icons—were grafted onto the logo. These clichéd images were conjoined with the big “O” to trigger favorable associations with candidate Obama himself. Each group could identify with Obama through the personalized logos. The personal connection between product and consumer is what makes for great design, and Obama’s design team played matchmaker to the hilt. The basic Logobama design elements served, something like the Christian “fish” symbol did, as a unifying expression for a diverse range of denominations and personal Christian commitments.

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