Noam Chomsky said, “The elections are run by the same guys who sell toothpaste.” Chomsky has gone a step too far here. Conventional marketing and political campaigns run along parallel, not identical, lines. Both do need branding strategy (the conceptual DNA that generates expectation and perception), but there’s a difference in implementation. For marketers, the branding plan generally is treated as confidential and can be fine-tuned or replaced, as need be. For the most part, the brand blueprint is put into effect through paid efforts. With campaigners, the candidate’s official biography in large measure serves as the strategic outline. Clearly, very little modification is possible. A political production can assume that a well-crafted bio will be propagated without charge by media and supporters.
With the Massachusetts Senate race, Scott Brown injected the Cosmo spread into his biography by justifying the photos on the basis of the need to pay for tuition. This explanation turned Elizabeth Warren’s comments into a marketing virus. The effect has been to hijack Brown’s mythic schema life story and to turn it against him, ruining the political brand. Voters now won’t think of Brown’s problematical upbringing as forging character strength. Instead, Brown himself has led the public to believe that his past has brought about character defects.