Is Sarah Palin a Brand?

>> Friday, July 17, 2009

I am a firm believer that marketing is marketing, no matter what the brand. And I also believe that anything can be a brand, if it's marketed well. In this post, our Director of Strategic Planning, Johanna Skilling, has questions about Sarah Palin.

Is she a brand?

Hope this finds you well -- Jim.

Take it away, Johanna:

Permission to be Sarah Palin

Apparently no one in the country, except perhaps the First Dude, knew what Sarah Palin was going to do next. She shocked the right, amused and delighted the left, and let herself become the object of every kind of speculation.

But my suspicion is that soon-to-be-former Governor Palin has just discovered that in fact she is Brand Palin. Not just a public servant, but a public figure. Someone who does more than fill a role, but embodies an archetype. (Did I hear someone just say “Maverick?”)

Brands are built on a mission and a vision, and love her or loathe her, Brand Palin has got both. Her mission has been to be a public figure; her vision is to operate on the biggest stage possible. Maybe Sarah has studied brands like Harley-Davidson (I said maybe.). H-D’s products are about two-wheeled transportation, but their brand is about fulfilling dreams. A plain old motorcycle company wouldn’t engage our imaginations as much as a fulfiller of dreams … just as Governor Palin didn’t engage the country as much as Brand Palin will.

But brands don’t just emerge on their own: they need our help. As Seth Godin says, “You don’t get permission to become a brand; you earn it.”

The former Mayor of Wasilla earned the right to run for Governor (and win, and get pretty high approval ratings); the Governor earned the right to be considered for Vice President of the United States of America. And the candidate who shook up that election decided she had permission to become a minister without portfolio in our national political landscape.

We don’t yet know what kind of brand Sarah Palin is going to be. But through a combination of natural attributes, luck, skill and strategy, she’s earned our permission to transcend the tidy niche a product fills, and become part of our collective consciousness.

We should all be so good.

- Johanna Skilling, Director of Strategic Planning at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness


TGV July 17, 2009 at 9:38 AM  

Hi Johanna - nicely written.

My take is that Sarah Palin, the Brand, exists on about the level as Snuggie. Embraced passionately by a small group of fierce advocates, found amusing but not taken entirely seriously by the population at large, and (hopefully) fading from public consciousness as the vast majority comprehends the ridiculousness.

One man's opinion.

Anonymous,  July 17, 2009 at 9:54 AM  

This highlights one of the major problems with our country: that an elected official can gain popularity and recognition not through governing but through branding. If we want to remain a successful nation, we need to choose our leaders based on policy, not celebrity status.
Furthermore, while Palin may have advanced her own career with her nasty, divisive brand of politics, she very likely damaged the Republican Party by alienating intelligent longtime conservatives in order to appeal to radical fringe elements. That's sounds like some short-term marketing that hopefully won't be paying off three years from now.

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