January 20, 2019

Mayor Pete’s new way to brand a campaign


Every well-managed brand has a Brand Standard Manual (BSM). It’s sometimes given a different name, like Brand Book, Brand Bible, or Symbol Simon’s Guide to Don’t Mess With Our Logo. We’ll stick to BSM, thanks.

Even more so, an underdog startup enterprise needs a BSM as a foundational document designed to achieve and express a consensus: this is who we are, and here’s how we will tell our brand story.

It clarifies your Brand Platform (Mission, Vision, Desired Position). It illustrates your logo, tagline, color palette, fonts, and typographic rules. Specifies your tone of voice, elevator speech, website icons, etc.

Want to see a sample?

Click, for your edification and amusement: every November we re-publish a tongue-in-cheek attempt to rebrand our national turkey day extravaganza THNKSGVN. We commend it to your attention.

Which brings us to “Mayor Pete,” a candidate for President in 2020, and his ingenious BSM.

Call his brand book clever, or innovative, or creative, but that would be a major understatement. It’s groundbreaking. For example, his color palette uses nine colors, a notable departure from the usual five or four. Beyond the sheer quantity is the inspiration-story for each. The colors come from his South Bend roots (1964 Studebaker blue!), his two dogs (Buddy and Truman browns), the color of his favorite whisky (Talisker 18), and even Rust Belt yellow. Amusing + thoughtful = serious + fun = an engaging narrative.

Yes, the color story is mostly subliminal but subtly persuasive. No, this is not an endorsement – I haven’t decided on a candidate yet – but it did get me wondering if Talisker could replace Lagavulin in my single-malt affection …

His name: problem and solution

“Mayor Pete,” as he calls himself, offers a down-home, Midwestern-friendly solution to the difficult pronunciation of his last name, Buttigieg. Clearly, the humor here is strategically on-brand: a man who speaks eight languages (so far) will be regarded by many American voters as suspiciously intelligent. You know, infected with book larnin’. Possibly (gasp) aloof. A spoonful of whimsey lightens the load.

What does this say about his agency?

We, of course, salute Mayor Pete’s branding team in Brooklyn for their skillful work. It’s professionalism at the highest level. Certainly, the website is strategic – but tactical, too, including a DIY kit for voters to create their localized campaign materials. There’s a story in Fast Company that ‘splains their “radical” approach to the BSM.

Okay, but what does this say about the candidate?

Well, there is a truth universally acknowledged that an agency’s work is only as good as the client allows. Most candidates for office in America are fearfully cautious. Resolute smile. Flag. Blue suit. White shirt. Red tie. Lapel pin. Yard signs designs in red/white/blue, or blue/white/red, or white/red/blue. Absolutely no mention of Scotch.

This BSM is far, far from timidly pedestrian. It’s something to watch.