A Political Branding Lesson For "The Real World"

We don’t blog too much about politics because political communications, particularly at the Presidential level, are often much closer to the work of Hollywood publicists than it is to what we do at Tanner Friedman.  Often, the daily “spin” and constant effort to make one individual “look good” does not resemble how businesses and organizations need to communicate every day.  But, this week, we have an example that can teach a lesson to any effort designed to communicate a brand.

Dave Bing, the former college and pro basketball star and longtime successful businessman, beat the sitting Mayor of Detroit, Ken Cockrel (the former City Council President), in a Special Election even though Bing was painted as an “outsider.” In fact, that characterization by his opponent may have propelled Bing toward victory.  Bing’s campaign stayed on-message throughout, preaching professionalism and character and differentiated his potential from his opponent’s. 

Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Nancy Kaffer explores the power of the Bing Brand in a front-page story that you can read, for free, here.  As for what it means to your communications effort, that’s where Tanner Friedman comes in.  Here’s how we are quoted in the article:

“…emphasizing differences is the root of brand-building, said Matt Friedman, a partner in Farmington Hills-based Tanner Friedman—Strategic Communications.
‘Your brand is your personality to your target market,’ he said. ‘One of the important things in establishing a brand is articulating points of difference.’
On those terms, Friedman said, Bing’s potential weakness as a newcomer and an outsider became an advantage — and negative ads from the Cockrel camp bolstered the Bing brand. 

‘It seems like this cry for change, having someone who is an outsider, may have worked in his favor,’ he said. ‘It reinforced that Dave Bing has not been a part of all the troublesome behavior in the mayor’s office or the City Council.'”