The President Barack Obama Brand

As I have often contended, people can be viewed and managed as brands, especially people who have very high public profiles. In October of last year, just before the November elections, we polled Branding Strategy Insider readers on the John McCain and (now) President Barack Obama brands. Just recently, more than 200 days into President Obama’s presidency, we repeated the survey to determine in what ways perceptions of him might have changed in such a short period of time.

Between August 23 and August 27, 102 people responded to the survey or roughly 1% of BSI's daily audience. Those people represent 28 states. 55.9% were male, while 44.1% were female. Ages ranged from less than 18 years old to 74 years old. 55.4% were married. The average household income roughly followed a normal curve but skewed high. The mode was $100,000-$149,999. Political party registration was as follows: 40.0% Democratic, 24.3% Republican, 18.6% Independent, 12.9% none and 4.2% other. Given the respondent mix and the ending sample size, the data is directional but not projectable. The sample size and demographic composition are very similar to that of our previous survey.

We explored 36 personality attributes and 39 issue-related attributes. The personality attributes included those most often associated with strong brands (trustworthy, reliable, etc.) and those most often used in describing political candidates and politicians. The 39 issue-related attributes were taken from the platforms of the five largest political parties. In the previous survey, we explored 27 personality attributes and 35 issue-related attributes.

Here is what we found. First, let’s look at President Barack Obama’s personality.

Dropped off of top 10: On the rise, 4.33 at #2, Innovative 3.83 at #5, Free thinker 3.66 at #9, Inclusive 3.53 at #10
* = Attribute added since previous survey

Dropped off bottom 10: none

As might be expected, most personality attribute ratings have not changed in any significant way between the two surveys. “On the rise” decreased significantly, presumably due to his previous rise to the presidency. He has been in office now for over 200 days.

Now let’s explore the issue-related attributes beginning with the most descriptive of President Obama.
Dropped off top 10: Offers a new way of thinking about the world 4.08 at #7, Will provide a safety net for the poor, 4.00 at #9

Issue-related Attributes Least Descriptive of President Obama
Dropped off bottom 10: Supports free trade, 2.82 at #9, Supports a strong military 2.82 at #10

As might be expected, most issue-related attribute ratings have not changed in any significant way between the two surveys. The notable exceptions are as follows. “Has lost his way” is more descriptive of him in the current survey, although still one of the least descriptive of him overall. “Supports companies over people” is also more descriptive of him in the current survey, although again still one of the least descriptive of him overall. “Supports universal health care” continues to be most associated with him.

The most interesting comparison is President Obama’s brand as perceived by different segments.
While the sample sizes are smaller, the following is how President Obama is perceived by those registered under different political parties and those living outside the U.S.A.
The differences in perception by segment point to a brand that has significantly different meanings to different groups. Everyone agreed on only one personality attribute, “Intelligent.”

We will likely repeat this survey again sometime in the future to determine if the President Barack Obama brand has changed, and if so, in what ways.

Thank you for participating.

Sponsored By: The Brand Positioning Workshop

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