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Obama the Brand Name

September 17, 2009

“Yes we can” “hope” to “change” the overabundance of liberal images at Harvard.  Walking across the Yard, one is constantly reminded of the left-leaning ideology of the college.  Such images can even encroach upon a conservative’s private space if, say, her roommates decide to place a giant Obama tapestry in front of her door and a magnetic dress-up Obama on her refrigerator.  What is a conservative to do but buy an even larger poster of Reagan for the common room?

But, truth be told, Democrats hold a significant advantage over Republicans in terms of branding.  As Professor Wisse remarked at the last meeting of the Harvard Republican Club, it is difficult to make the slogan of “responsibility” sound sexy.  Democrats also have the support of the “hip” media at large; there is no Shepard Fairey of the right, nor is there an abundance of young female Republicans willing to proclaim their love for Eric Cantor while dancing in short shorts.

While the period of unprecedented demand for Obama merchandise has ended, its effects still remain.  People still wear their Obama shirts, post their Obama posters, play with their Obama action figures, water their Obama Chia Pets, sleep in their Obama pajamas, and distribute their Obama condoms to middle-schoolers.  Feeling down that the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and Obama never appear on your toastLook no further. To say that merchants have capitalized on Obamania is an understatement.

Republicans have argued that such branding commercializes elections and detracts from the candidates’ positions.  It does.  However, it has become a necessary facet of campaigning.  The media and the public think in sound bites: they would rather hear short catchphrases than long speeches, and they would rather look at visual advertisements than text-based advertisements.  To illustrate, it is much easier to remember the catchy “Yes We Can” slogan and signature “O” logo of Barack Obama than it is to remember the “Country First” slogan and small star logo of John McCain.

Are Republican principles incompatible with the concept of branding?  No.  Granted, the party should probably stop short of women dancing around in short shorts.  As much as Republicans place so much emphasis on their dignity and traditionalism, they are losing the interest of the public and need to react accordingly.  And they need to act quickly.

[Caitlin Carey is a Freshman in Canaday and a Member of the Harvard Republican Club.]

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