Issue: July 1, 2007


Those who attended the Promax/BDA show in New York last month had a chance to listen to one of the country’s great communicators. Former President Bill Clinton addressed a standing room only crowd, spending nearly an hour on the importance of branding a message.

I was very curious as to how a politician — and president for that matter — would angle his speech to those in the broadcast design space. Was he brought in by the BDA simply to draw a crowd, or did he really understand this business?

“Politics is really show business for ugly people,” joked the former president in his opening remarks. And while his sense of humor shined through, it wasn’t long before attendees realized just how in touch with the business of branding the former US leader really is.

“The Republican Party was brilliant at branding,” said Clinton, noting the challenge in politics of turning a “3D issue into a 2D cartoon.” He cited the GOP’s success in creating brands for issues that ranged from “immigration” and “amnesty” to “values voters” and “partial birth abortion.”

“They campaign relentlessly for things that can’t happen,” he said of the Republicans. “I ran a surplus, but they were better branders!” The crowd applauded. He also gave props to former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, calling him a “brilliant brander.”

“I did a disservice to Americans by not being a better brander on healthcare,” Clinton reflected.

He also commented on climate change, greenhouse gases and “inconvenient facts.” The UK and Denmark, he noted, have already committed to making changes that will lessen their impact on the environment.

“We need better branding that includes relevant facts,” he said of the United States’ position. “How do we take ‘word’ issues and explain it to people in how it will affect them, their families and their futures?”

In closing, Clinton said he is very optimistic about the future of the world, but that people need to ask themselves if they look at their similarities to others or their differences?

“How do we brand ourselves?” he asked, and, “how do we brand the 21st century?”