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Brand Palin

Posted on | September 6, 2008 | 1 Comment

by Fara Warner

Watching Sarah Palin nail her speech earlier this week did nothing to change my personal feelings about her–and her politics. But watching her deliver a strong, powerful speech that energized the Republicans in St. Paul gave me much to worry about.  Palin wasn’t just playing politics, she was playing branding–or her conservative Republican handlers were.  Her speech was a classic branding play.

Here is a brand–call her Brand Palin–who was tarnished right out of the gate. It was easy a week ago to dismiss Palin as unqualified. It was easy to be snarky about her hair. It was easy to criticize her mothering skills. She reminded me of a brand that many of us love to hate–Wal-Mart. We like to be snarky about that brand too: it’s too big, it’s too brash, it’s bad for the environment despite changing its lightbulbs, it’s sold guns. But we forget that there are lots of Wal-Mart moms out there. If we diss and dismiss Palin, we diss those women.

Today, Palin and McCain are headed to suburban counties outside of big metro centers–including one in my backyard, Macomb County just north of Detroit. They are reaching out to women who do see themselves in Palin as hard as that is to believe.  They like her brand even if they don’t necessarily like her politics. A good number of these women likely have political leanings that would compel them to vote Democrat. But they don’t see themselves in the Obama-Biden brand. That brand is too highbrow, too classy. Obama-Biden isn’t even Target; it’s more of Whole Foods no matter Biden’s working class background. Palin makes them feel proud of who they are. They may not be the salmon hunting, pistol packing, basketball shooting women–as Cindy McCain so proudly pointed out about Palin. But they do like that she tells jokes about being a hockey mom. They are hockey moms–particularly the women of Macomb county who probably can find Red Wings branded merchandise somewhere in their house. Hockey moms are a tougher breed than the old soccer moms. Palin makes them feel good about being one.

I’m just waiting for hair salons to receive requests for the “Palin” up-do. That’s not being snarky. These women want to identify with someone and Palin gives them a brand that they can wear comfortably–all the way up from her new suits to her hair.  And what of her family? She embraced them, showing off all of them to the world. Just like a good marketer facing crisis she turned her negatives into positives. She was proud of them, all of them. That was a star turn of branding. Of course, now she can’t complain when someone wants to question issues surrounding her family. She used them to her advantage. She’ll have to learn what marketers often have learned the hard way–when you embrace your faults others will nail you for them. It’s not nice, it’s not fair, but it’s reality. It’s politics.


One Response to “Brand Palin”

  1. charlotte
    September 11th, 2008 @ 4:40 am

    I am really scared at the thought of Sarah Palin as VP of the US. If they thought they would get the female Clinton vote they are wrong, Palin is not Pro choice scary thought!


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