Lessons from Branding the Clinton Campaign

One of the unexpected revelations from the Clinton campaign emails released by Wikileaks is an interesting exchange on the process of developing Hillary’s 2016 logo. It turns out that the campaign’s chief strategist Joel Benson was skeptical that Pentagram, who had been hired to design the work, was up to the task. As Co. Design’s John Brownlee writes, there was concern that the new logo could not match the heights of Obama’s 2008 logo (a branding home run if there ever was one for a political campaign).

Benson expresses doubt that the Hillary logo shows this same sense of forward momentum. That could mean that at the time Benson wrote his email, Hillary’s logo did not contain the aisle-crossing arrow that became a hallmark of her identity. Benson further complains that instead of figuring out a way to introduce movement into the logo, Pentagram seems too strongly focused on the idea of using the mark as a ‘window,’ representing the openness and transparency of the Hillary campaign—a design motif that, indeed, has become a central tenet of Hillary brand’s, as the ‘H’ logo is a transparent mask overlaid on different campaign images.

Marketing veteran Wendy Clark was also consulting on the project, and she came to Pentagram’s defense with this impressive rejoinder on how branding really works.

To be clear, a logo can communicate and aid attribution of qualities, but it is not a proxy for the messaging of the campaign until they are relentlessly connected and delivered, repeatedly and consistently. That’s when brands take on meaning.

As Michael has used previously, no one would look at a red Target logo and think: design for all—fashionable yet affordable choices for my home and family—expect more, pay less. But their relentless, contemporary, fashion-forward products and aligned messaging has imbued that logo with meaning just that.

Similarly, Apple, the world’s most valuable brand, launched with their rainbow apple mark in 1976. It simply stood for creativity, thinking differently. Their repeated, consistent use of the mark along with some of the world’s most creative advertising has imbued that bitten apple logo with meaning, but no one would look at that mark stand-alone and say it means Apple is the leader in human-centered designed, electronic devices with a vision for the future.

In other words: logos gain their power when used repeatedly, consistently and well. I bet brand designers everywhere wish that their clients could read this.

Read an overview of the exchange at fastcodesign.com.