Brand-Association Study Finds Obama Linked to BMW, McCain to Ford

November 10, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Brand Metrics | Retail & E-Commerce

Barack Obama is more associated with brands BMW, Target, Google and Samuel Adams, while John McCain brings to mind Ford, Wal-Mart , AOL and Budweiser, according to the 2008 Presidential ImagePower Survey from branding firm Landor Associates and research firm Penn, Schoen & Berland.

The poll of likely voters taken before the Nov. 4th election sheds light on various aspects of the candidates’ identities by associating them with familiar brands across categories. For the study, respondents were asked to map the presidential and vice presidential candidates to well-known brands – from computer platforms to cars to snack foods and fictional spies.


To understand how the candidates match up with ideal leadership qualities, the survey also looked at voters’ perceptions of candidate attributes. Overall, Obama is seen as charming, approachable, compassionate, intelligent, and unifying, while McCain is seen as strong, reliable, and respected. On the vice presidential front, Biden is identified as respected, strong, and reliable, while Palin’s attributes include trustworthy, “shares my values,” and approachable. She also shares the qualities unifying and credible with Obama.

Where running mates are concerned, Obama and McCain achieved a desirable balancing act, Landor said. According to the survey, Obama and Palin have a lot in common, as do McCain and Biden, demonstrating that from a brand standpoint, the VP candidates compensate for Obama and McCain’s perceived weaknesses.

Obama and Palin are perceived similarly in seven out of 15 categories including Internet brand (Google) and magazine (People) – both very personable, popular and youthful brands. The same is true for McCain and Biden in 12 out of 15 categories, including associations with AOL and BusinessWeek, two respected brands with a long heritage.

“The study suggests that both campaigns have effectively co-branded to broaden and balance their appeal,” said Mary Dugan, executive director at Landor Associates. “Likely voters associated Obama and Palin with similar positive key attributes, despite the strong surface distinctions between the two candidates. Likewise, Biden and McCain are both aligned with similar brands despite their deep policy disagreements.”

“The big news here is that for all their policy differences, these two candidates have a lot of similarities from a branding perspective,” said Scott Siff, executive vice president at Penn, Schoen & Berland. “Three of the key brands that McCain and Obama are both associated with -Starbucks, iPod, and MySpace – won their reputation as game-changers in their respective categories by allowing people to achieve individuality in a comfortable format.”

About the research: The survey was conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland between October 1 and October 6, 2008, with a representative sample of registered voters who planned to vote in the? presidential election. A total of 1,002 respondents participated, and the results were grouped by party affiliation: Democratic, Republican, and Independent.

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