Concepts are much more likely to be remembered when presented as pictures rather than as words. This is why in building political campaigns and brands, images are just as important as the actual message. It’s no accident that in 2008 everyone associated President Obama with the campaign for change after artist Shepard Fairley designed an iconic poster placing the president’s face over the word “Hope”.
Naturally, the battle for control in social media is already becoming a major campaign test for the year ahead. As politicians enter the 2016 race one-by-one, they are fighting for social media dominance. In order to be a major contender, visuals and images are a must-have, especially when trying to gain the attention of millennials drowning in media clutter.
Enter Donald Trump. In an effort to associate Trump’s face with the idea of “fighting for Americans” and “leadership”, the billionaire’s campaign gave him a star-spangled banner makeover, superimposing the American flag over his stern face, placing the White House within reach, and of course showing images of troops marching alongside him.
The image, however, was not ready for prime time. While the campaign team found their mistake and quickly took down the tweeted image, the Internet found it sooner. The aforementioned troops, to Trump’s campaign’s apparent surprise, were not American troops. In fact, they were as far from patriotic imagery as one can possibly generate. The marching men stamped right next to Donald Trump’s face were wearing Nazi uniforms. The campaign was quick to pin the blame on an intern. But the damage was done, and images on the Internet last forever.
Let this be a lesson for all who not only seek presidential office, but anyone building their brand through image associations. While the pen is mighty, a picture is worth a thousand words. Use this to your advantage and get creative. Just make sure to check for details. Ask yourself, “Does the potential exist that this image could harm my brand or my reputation?” And make sure to get a second opinion; sometimes fresh eyes can catch a simple but embarrassing mistake.