Brand lessons from the Biden campaign

19 Nov,2020


By Avik Chattopadhyay


The Biden election campaign was one that I followed closely more from the perspective of brand building, nurturing and management right from June 2020 when he became the unanimous Democratic candidate. As a case study it is surely worth analysing if it has any lessons or pointers for brand managers and strategists.


Maybe the campaign unfolded and grew in an unplanned manner, evolving with every passing day, but in hindsight, it sure has some key takeaways. If it was all planned as I see it then it is surely one of the most incisive and insightful campaigns to have been rolled out to such effectiveness.


So, here are my 5 brand lessons from the 2020 Biden Harris campaign.



Lesson #1 – Slogans or taglines not always needed

The campaign did not have a slogan at all. It was simply “Biden for President” and then “Biden-Harris”. Simple and straightforward. No fuss. No frills. Nothing to outdo or counter Trump’s “make America Great Again”. Each state and town went ahead and built their own slogans that were most relevant to their desires and aspirations. So, every campaign need not have a slogan or tagline. As the occasion demands, being simple is simply super.


Lesson #2 – Assert, don’t aggravate

He knew his opponent too well and allowed him the rope to play himself to the hilt. In the process, Trump ended up alienating more than those he embraced. Guess the average American voter, irrespective of allegiances, somewhere wished less rhetoric and more substance to allow him / her to finally decide. This was crucial for it went down to the wire. So, the focus needs to be on two things for a brand manager – quality content over the mere ability to amplify, and the tone of voice to be chosen for the campaign.


Lesson #3 – Include and involve

Biden ensured he took along every Democratic presidential candidate with him after he became the front-runner and final choice. This was crucial to ensure maximum internal buy-in and support from all corners of the party. Trump was all about himself and a certain part of the Republican Party actually wished he lost and closed his own case. Also, the Biden campaign was hugely inclusive in actively involving people of all ethnicities and economic backgrounds. The Trump campaign was run by specific sections of American society who were either of a certain colour or a certain economic class. So, the lesson for the brand manager is that for any campaign to be successful, one needs active buy-in of all key internal stakeholders.


Lesson #4 – Always pays to say “Sorry”

Humility and candour never go out of fashion, in any culture and in any situation. Biden displayed both in his journey as a senator, apologising if he made a mistake. That is a quality that creates instant affinity that sustains lifelong. One just cannot imagine Trump ever acknowledging a misstep, forget a mistake. The Biden campaign obviously encashed heavily on this value system of their candidate versus an incumbent who was given to inconsistent raving and ranting. The same applies to any brand in our everyday lives. It sure is tough to say “I am sorry” before your customer or prospect but the ability to say so will reap priceless equity for the brand.


Lesson #5 – Build in flexibility

Planning a campaign well is good but making it water-tight is not a virtue in today’s dynamic times. The Biden team built in enough flexibility to allow modifications and changes, big and small as the campaign rolled along, without losing the core narrative. This allowed customisation of the narrative in each state and also rapid improvements based on feedback. Studying pictures of his campaign across various cities I did not see the same messages being used or carried on placards and banners. While Biden and Harris remained central, the stories around them were ably tailored to appeal to specific vote pockets. This is crucial in today’s brand campaigns too which depend more on social media platforms that are intrinsically dynamic and fluid in nature. This also requires new skills for the brand manager to be engaged in the campaign till its entire timeline and not rest easy once it rolls out.


I am sure there are lessons from the Trump campaign too.


It was obviously the most beautiful campaign, the most loved and the most followed.


It was a campaign befitting that of a winner.


It was simply humongous and awesome.


Just that the required numbers did not take the bait.




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