New survey compares U.S. presidential candidates and their wives to brands

September 27, 2012

NEW YORK (27 September 2012) –What do home-brewed coffee, Ford cars, Budweiser beer, Marriott Hotels, Nike, and basketball have in common? They’re all down-to-earth brands and categories one might associate with a good friend. They were also used to describe President Barack Obama in the Presidential ImagePower Survey, released today. Conducted by Landor Associates, a strategic brand consulting and design firm, and Penn Schoen Berland, a strategic research and communication firm, between September 14 and 19, the survey gauges brand perceptions of the presidential candidates and their wives among 1200 adults nationwide who are likely to vote in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. In the same study, Romney was associated with high-end, luxury brands one might think a boss favors like Armani, BMW, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Saks Fifth Avenue, American Express, and Starbucks.


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“Building a successful political campaign is much like building a successful brand. Candidates must connect with voters in a relevantly different way,” said Allen Adamson, managing director of the New York office of Landor Associates. “Conversely, voters want to connect with candidates that embody trustworthy characteristics and are able to consistently deliver on their campaign promises. This also mirrors the relationships we have with brands: delivery of brand promises begets loyalty.”

Vying for the White House is often a family affair, with spouses in the spotlight as much as the candidates themselves. The results revealed the presidential candidates and their wives make picture-perfect pairs. Michelle Obama supports her husband’s down-to-earth sensibility, aligning with brands like Corona, Macy’s, Maybelline, and Ford. Her ability to set trends and fight obesity through her Let’s Move! initiative did not go unnoticed, aligning well with J.Crew, fruit sorbet, and yoga. Ann Romney aligned with her husband, and her own causes, including the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Stand for Children; her brands included Starbucks, BMW, Ralph Lauren, tennis, and apple pie.

“What was particularly interesting data is that both candidates seem to have successfully created what it means to be brand Obama and brand Romney within the voters’ minds,” said Billy Mann, managing director at Penn Schoen Berland. “Recent comments made by both candidates are supported in the results, and the causes that their wives are passionate about are also reflected in the findings.”

Looking at a variety of other themes showed as clear a separation as the party lines. President Obama and his wife identify with innovative brands like Google and Apple, while the Romneys are viewed as more traditional brands like Microsoft and Bing. As an individual, President Obama is perceived as more of an academic, tracking well with a game of chess, Facebook, and Batman. Romney is the consummate professional, tracking well with Monopoly, LinkedIn, and Captain America.

With the two presidential candidates standing at opposite ends of the voting ballot, survey respondents were also asked about attributes that represent each. Not surprisingly, most respondents identified attributes that support each candidate’s platform. For example, President Obama’s “Forward” is echoed in respondents’ views that he is passionate and intelligent, understands the issues facing Americans today, and is innovative and a leader.

In a nod to the proliferation of pop culture and its transcendence beyond the political sphere, the Obamas were also identified as People and Vogue magazines, and celebrity power couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé. The Romneys, on the other hand, were seen as Businessweek and Ladies Home Journal magazines and as Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.  

About Penn, Schoen & Berland

Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) is a global research-based strategic communication advisory that brings the lessons learnt from its campaign trails into the boardroom to help companies negotiate some of their toughest corporate image and corporate affairs challenges. For over 30 years PSB has used research to leverage unique insights about public opinion, to give our clients a competitive edge. PSB serves Fortune 100 corporations, leading Hollywood studios and has helped elect over 30 presidents and prime ministers around the world.

PSB is a part of Young & Rubicam Group and WPP; more information is available on

About Landor Associates

Landor Associates is one of the world’s leading strategic brand consulting and design firms. Founded by Walter Landor in 1941, Landor pioneered many of the research, design, and consulting methods that are now standard in the branding industry. Partnering with clients, Landor drives business transformation and performance by creating brands that are more innovative, progressive, and dynamic than their competitors.

Landor’s holistic approach to branding is a balance of rigorous, business-driven thinking and exceptional creativity. Its work spans the full breadth of branding services, including brand research and valuation, brand positioning and architecture, naming and writing, corporate identity and consumer packaging design, branded experience, brand equity management, brand engagement, and digital branding.

With 24 offices in 18 countries, Landor’s current and past clients include some of the world’s most powerful brands, including BlackBerry, Citi, the Council on Foreign Relations, Diageo, Hilton Hotels, HP, Jet Airways, Microsoft, MillerCoors, Panasonic, PGA of America, Procter & Gamble, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, and Verizon.

Landor is a member of the Young & Rubicam Group network within WPP, the world's largest marketing and communications firm. 

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