The politics of hope

The Democratic Party and the institutionalisation of the Obama brand in the 2010 mid-term elections

Authored by: Brian M. Conley

Routledge Handbook of Political Marketing

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415579933
eBook ISBN: 9780203349908
Adobe ISBN: 9781136597442


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The branding of Obama as an agent of hope and change was central to the successful strategy of marketing the Democratic presidential candidate as an appealing alternative to the Republican status quo in 2008. However, unlike either the re-election of Bush in 2004 in the US, or Tony Blair in 2001 in the UK, which were also characterised by the use of branding strategies, it is not clear whether the Obama brand was, or will become the Democratic Party brand. In both the Blair and Bush re-elections, the candidate’s message reflected ideas central to an established party brand (Gould 1998; Lilleker 2005; Cosgrove 2007). This was less the case with Obama’s election, given the absence of a similar, market-oriented effort to brand the Democratic Party over the last decade. The Obama election, then, raises questions about why candidates, parties and other political organisations are increasingly using branding strategies. It also raises questions about how and when branding strategies are formally incorporated into the functioning of a party, and specifically whether or not the Obama brand will be adopted by the Democratic Party or will remain, as it originated, the product of a highly successful political entrepreneur.

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