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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Continuing to build the Obama brand

When Obama came before Congress to deliver a prime-time, nationally-televised address, he made a point to note that the White House had launched a new website to track the impact of the economic recovery package. He created recovery.gov, he said, “so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.”
Last week, the Obama administration unveiled a three-color logo that will be used to identify all the projects across the country funded by the economic recovery bill. The only thing written on image are the words, “recovery.gov,” and the logo is now featured prominently on the recovery website.
“These emblems are symbols of our commitment to you, the American people — a commitment to investing your tax dollars wisely, to put Americans to work doing the work that needs to be done,” Obama said. “So when you see them on projects that your tax dollars made possible, let it be a reminder that our government — your government — is doing its part to put the economy back on the road of recovery.”
Of course, the website and the logo are more than a symbol of commitment — both are instantly recognizable as an extension of the greater Obama brand.
During the campaign, the Obama organization made a concerted effort to cultivate that brand. By election day, the rising sun logo was ubiquitous, the whole world knew that Barack Obama stood for hope and change, and anything printed in the Gotham font was associated with the campaign.
Even the Shepard Fairey poster — an iconic image that the Obama organization did not create — was rolled into the broader cultural phenomenon.
The Obama brand is defined by three things:
It manages to be both forward-looking and seeped in history.The recovery logo is a perfect example — but for the web address, there is nothing about it that would seem out of place in a New Deal program. The Fairey image is deeply nostalgic, but it uses the Gotham font, which was created in 2000.
It’s deeply tied to the web — every offline program has an online component. As the official transition began, for instance, Obama was represented online with Change.gov. The moment Obama was sworn in as president, his staffers launched a new version of WhiteHouse.gov which fit the brand.
It is connected directly to real people. During the campaign, supporters were invited to join MyBarackObama — to set their own fundraising goals, discuss their own priorities for the country, and bring their friends and family into the effort. During the transition, citizens were invited to apply for positions in the government, to weigh in on policy goals, and to offer their vision for the new administration. Now, with the recovery, people are invited to see their tax dollars at work and to hold the government accountable for this spending.
Barack Obama, as an individual, is not the brand. He is its most powerful symbol and its strongest advocate. But the brand is larger than even the president. It is both an argument about what government should be and a movement to make that vision reality.
On Monday afternoon, John Dickerson — a political writer for Slate — posted a link in his Twitter feed. “A first for this WH?,” he wrote, “Emailing articles supportive of policy. How an administration acts like a campaign: http://bit.ly/12U1yt
The Obama administration isn’t so much campaigning as it is continuing to advance the brand.

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