In October 2008, Barack Obama won Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year, beating Apple, Zappo’s, Nike, and Coors.  He then went on to win the White House in great part because of his carefully crafted brand.  Obama’s message – hope and change – was simple and consistently reinforced through a comprehensive brand management system.  People easily related to it and social media helped the campaign create a bottom-up revolution that anyone could partake in.  In the run-up to the 2012 election, however, it seems the Obama team has forgotten that they exemplified best practices for marketers four years ago.

So far, in a quest to capture “market share” and possibly because of fear, Obama seems to have forgotten the power gained through embodying an unambiguous brand message.  Like many consumer brands, he’s looking to gain a lift in his share through promotional efforts and campaign messages that seek to undercut his competition more than tell us what he’s about.  We’ll soon see if Barack Obama will reveal his 2012 brand positioning at the Democratic National Convention in the same way Mitt Romney introduced us to Brand Mitt this past week.

Watching the Republican National Convention, listening to the speeches, and reading the pundits, it’s clear that Mitt Romney has strategically crafted a brand that is based on his strengths as a businessman and a simple meaningful message – restoring our future.  And, although he acknowledged his support of some of the more controversial issues included in the Republican platform through a wink and a nod in his speech, he’s astutely avoided attaching his brand to them.

The quick take-away:

How Mitt Romney describes himself:  A hard-working, honest, businessman who believes in America’s future

What Romney will do:  Build a better future for America – one in which you can find a job, senior citizens are secure in their retirement, and every parent knows their child’s education will lead them to a bright horizon

What role Romney plays: He brings the basic qualification needed to turn things around – a real understanding of how America works gained through lessons learned from experience in business

What Romney believes:  Through hard work, taking risks, and striving to achieve our dreams Americans can all be successful

Values: family, community, faith, and the strength of women

Personality: confident, hardworking, devoted, virtuous

Now that he’s defined his brand, over the next nine weeks Mitt Romney will need to be disciplined as he seeks to develop and consistently support it – through his visual identity and, more importantly, policies that shape the 2012 political debate….and that will appeal to Independent voters as much as established Republicans.