Is President Obama Putting Too Much Too Soon on the Brand?

With Responsibility Comes Risk, but Also Greater Rewards (and Re-Election)

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Evan Tracey Evan Tracey
It's been an interesting month in our nation's capitol, and the Obama administration is hard at work addressing the country's problems. As with every first-term administration, its primary challenges are to engage lawmakers on Capitol Hill with its new policy agenda and assemble a team that will instill confidence in the American people. If they succeed, in four years they will be rehired. In essence, this process is the political equivalent of establishing the brand.

The Barack Obama brand was successful during the election because it was promoted and perceived as new, smart, innovative and energetic. It was also successful because the Republican brand was in disarray. Since taking office, the perception of the Obama brand has taken a few hits due to PR problems with staff members and cabinet appointments, a unified opposition from the House Republicans, as well as some lackluster policy rollouts.

Many successful brands have taken their strength in a given area and extended the brand into other areas. Dove and its infinite line of products, Gillette shaving cream, Starbucks ice cream, V8 soups and Eddie Bauer SUVs all come to mind.

My question is: Could President Obama be stretching his personal brand too thin? In the last few weeks, he served as the point person with campaign-style events on the stimulus package, state bailouts, the mortgage and housing crisis, the Iraq War and the fate of Guantanamo Bay. With President Obama taking such a dominant role in these policy fronts instead of delegating some responsibility to his cabinet and advisors, he is putting a lot of strain on his personal brand.

The benefit to extending the Obama brand is that it brings popular support to these issues and their solutions. If his brand extension is based on expertise and intelligence, then Obama's ability to problem solve will be measured by any economic turnaround. The risk of this brand extension, however, is that further PR problems will lessen the brand's credibility and hurt the administration's effort to reinvent government.

These coming months will be a true test of how durable the Obama brand is and if it can handle more of these extensions. If the brand delivers and is resilient, then it will mirror the success of Crest Whitestrips; but if it is stretched too thin or too far across our nation's problems, then it may risk the fate of Hooters Airlines.

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Evan Tracey is the founder and president of Campaign Media Analysis Group, a TNS Media Intelligence company. See his complete bio.