Print Politics

John McCain’s Campaign: Design Analysis

It never fails – design choices always reflect a candidate's politics.

Six or seven months ago, you could never have told me, or anyone, probably, that Primary season would come to a head with John McCain on top of the Republican pile. But here we are, with McCain the uncontested leader despite Huckabee's Chuck Norris endorsement, and all of Ron Paul's supporter-funded full color printing.

The question is, what's McCain planning to impress us with in the coming months? His performance thusfar hasn't filled me with the sense that he's going to be able to put on an exciting contest in the race against the Dem nom. Whether it's Clinton or Obama when the dust settles, you at least know that they're going to be pulling out all the stops.

I've been thinking back, and remembering how the McCain run seemed to be falling apart early on. It was obvious from day one that he had taken a difference approach to his campaign printing and advertising, opting for a severe, militaristic black, white, and gold color scheme. The designs were stylistically attractive, but far from the classic, confidence-inspiring red, white, and blue…

Then the fit was hitting the proverbial shan. McCain's campaign staffers were dropping left and right, and abruptly, he changed design courses. All of a sudden, his full color print was actually full color. A swirl of color, in fact, was added to existing designs, and the Straight Talk Express – McCain's vehicle wrapped tour bus – began to look like something out of Across the Universe.

This was a major blow to McCain's campaign. After all, as scary as his original designs were, they were probably the most well-designed, from an aesthetic standpoint, of any Republican candidate. They had looked like what you'd hope to see from Darth Vader if he was running for Dark Overlord of the Universe, but the injection of color ruined the overall effect.

John McCain's website

Lucky for us, McCain's campaign eventually stabilized, and now that Romney's out and J-Mac's in the lead, his campaign has returned to its previously austere design principles, allowing only a touch of navy blue to grace their full color printing.

If the design weirdness ended right there, we could probably settle on expecting a steady, somewhat boring few months ahead from John McCain. Luckily, his Potomac primary victory speech Tuesday night left nothing to be desired for those keeping eyes peeled for weirdness. As we say in the biz, the crazy always comes out in the copy.

Whoever McCain's speechwriters are, they clearly decided that there would be no harm, and perchance some good, in stealing a marketing spin here and a slogan there from the Obama campaign. McCain's speech not only focused on Obama's favorite concept – HOPE – but went so far as to conclude with the phrase, “My friends, I promise you, I am fired up and ready to go.”

Woah, so first McCain bashes Obama, saying his hope is WAY bigger than Obama's hope, then he goes on to brand himself as a sort of right-wing version of the Dem darling?

What's that word again? Oh yeah. Weird.

“Fired up. Ready to go,” has long been one of the Obama campaign's favorite slogans, chanted at rallies and gracing the campaign's variety of full color printing. Trying to spin the concept in his favor is much like the move to inject color into his designs – both are signs that the McCain camp isn't as strong as it would like to be, and that it's happy to waffle until it finally hits the spot.

Many studies of campaign politics have proven that voters appreciate brand consistency. Why then, would any Presidential Primary candidate make design decisions that expose him as a fence-sitter and a bandwagon jumper?

The only thing that appears to be consistent about John McCain is that is politics are as back-and-forth as his print designs. Hopefully his campaign will get it together, so that we can all enjoy a good, tough race for the White House.

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