Business, Politics & Society

Slogans and Logos

David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Lesson time 6:30 min

Using his experiences in the 2008 Obama presidential campaign, David offers his unique perspective on the power of slogans and logos.

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David Axelrod and Karl Rove
Teach Campaign Strategy and Messaging
Renowned presidential campaign strategists David Axelrod and Karl Rove reveal what goes into effective political strategy and messaging.
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Sometimes not enough attention is paid to things like taglines in campaigns and slogans and logos. And people make careless decisions about them or ill-considered decisions about them. But in a really successful campaign, and a campaign that is maximizing its ability to win, they also should be passed through the filter of the message. That slogan ought to be the irreducible core of that basic argument that you want to make. One almost sure sign of a campaign in distress is a campaign that has multiple slogans during the course of the campaign. I've seen presidential campaigns have gone through nine slogans during the course of the campaign. And what that says is you don't really know who you are. You're trying to adjust who you are to fit whatever you think the mood of that particular moment is or the challenge of the opponent. Hillary Clinton incorporated the word change into one of her slogans when Obama started to make his move in 2008. And she was-- yes, she was a woman, but she also was a pillar of the Washington establishment and had earned that. She'd been a fine public servant. She'd been there for a long time. People didn't think of her as change. They thought of her as part of the status quo. And so just expropriating a word if the word doesn't really reflect who you are, if it doesn't reflect what your message-- your authentic message can be, is not going to get you anywhere. In 2004 when Obama was running for the Senate, the first ad I ever did for him was one that was biographical, It talked about all the improbable obstacles that he had overcome in his personal life and in his legislative career to achieve things. And it ended with a phrase, and it was like this. Now they say we can't change Washington. I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message to say yes, we can. But we filmed that ad in the home of a friend of his. It was the first Senate that he'd ever done, that we'd done together. And after the first take, he said, yes, we can. He said, is that too corny? And I gave him a long treatise as to why it was not and why it the core message of our campaign, that it was inclusive, that it was about we and not him, that it was positive and optimistic at a time when people felt defeated. And he listened and pondered that. And then he turned to Michelle, who was sitting on the steps watching his film said, and he said, Mich, what do you think? And she just kind of slowly turned her head and said, not corny. And he said, OK, let's go. So I knew where I stood in the pantheon of advisors to Barack Obama. But I have never been more grateful to anyone than I was to Michelle Obama that day, because I had no backup plan. I was so wedded to "yes we can" as the slogan for the campaign. And I remember on primary night, we won this improbable, exhilarating victory where we thought, if we could get 38% of the vote, we'd win in the seven-person field. And he got 53% of the vote and won all of these areas that people thought an Afri...


What it takes to win elections

David Axelrod and Karl Rove reach across the aisle to offer an inside look at winning campaign strategies. The respective architects of Barack Obama’s and George W. Bush’s historic election victories teach how to develop a campaign platform and reach an audience with consistent messaging. Find the inspiration and tools to get involved at any level, or simply become a more informed, engaged citizen.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Social Entrepreneurship Instructor curious about how campaigns work and influence our community of learners

That was a great display of civil disagreement, and collegial cooperation.

This is a fantastic and inspiring course! I recommend it to everyone! Especially those who are apathetic about politics (usually because they don't know how it works)

I'd like to watch it again and better absorb the information


Comments

Mia S.

"I remember on primary night, we won this improbable, exhilarating victory where we thought, 'If we could get 38% of the vote, we'd win in this seven-person field. He got 53% of the vote and won all of these areas that people thought an African American could never win. And there were 2,000 people in the hall that night, I remember him leading them in chants of 'Yes we can,' and it was a really beautiful moment. It became, actually, a kind of mantra for our presidential race as well. It had real meaning -it wasn't just a waste of three words. Logos are the same way. When he decided to run for president, we had to pull together materials, and we needed a logo, and I had a team of people working on this, and I told them, in 1983, I was a young reporter for The Tribune covering the mayoral race in Chicago; Harold Washington was running, he was going to be the first African American mayor of Chicago, and he had these blue buttons with kind of a sunrise illustration on them, that represented a new day in Chicago. And it seemed like every African American person in Chicago, and a lot of whites as well, were wearing this button by election day. And it occurred to me that we wanted to do something like that, something that spoke to a new way, a new beginning for the country - a sunrise at a time when people were really hungry for a different direction. And we came up with this logo. We weren't even going to put his name on it. It was just going to be the iconic pin so that it became about more than him, about a movement. It was unconventional. I remember he looked at it and said, 'Gee that looks awfully corporate.' I said, 'Well it's too late to change it, so let's stick with it.' And it turned out to become iconic. And it did have a message to it, it wasn't just wasted space. It was red white and blue, but the colors were used in a way that was different and fresh and contemporary and hopeful."

Mia S.

"Sometimes, not enough attention is paid to things like taglines in campaigns and slogans and logos. People make careless decisions about them, or ill-considered decisions about them. In a really successful campaign, a campaign that is maximizing its ability to win, they also should be passed through the filter or the message. That slogan ought to be the irreducible core of that basic argument that you want to make. One almost sure sign of a campaign in distress is a campaign that has multiple slogans during the course of the campaign. I've seen presidential campaigns have gone through nine slogans during the course of the campaign - and what that says is, you don't really know who you are. You're trying to adjust who you are to fit whatever you think the mood of that particular moment is, or the challenge of the opponent. Hillary Clinton incorporated the word 'change' into her slogans when Obama started to make his move in 2008, and she was - yes she was a woman, but she also was a pillar of the Washington establishment, and had earned that; she'd been a fine public servant. She'd been there for a long time. People didn't think of her as change, they thought of her as part of the status quo. And so just expropriating a word if they word doesn't really reflect who you are, your message - what your authentic message can be - is not going to get you anywhere. In 2004, when Obama was running for the Senate, the first ad I ever did for him was one that was biographical, talk ed about all the improbable obstacles that he had overcome in his personal life, his legislative career to achieve things. And it ended with a phrase, it was like this: 'Now they say we can't change Washington? I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message to say, Yes we can.' We filmed that ad in the home of a friend of his, it was the first Senate ad he'd ever done, that we'd done together, and after the first take he said, 'Yes we can. Is that too corny?' And I gave him a long treatise as to why it was not and why it was the core message of our campaign, that it was inclusive, that it was about 'we' and not 'him', that it was positive and optimistic at a time when people felt defeated. He listened and pondered that, and then he turned to Michelle who was sitting on the steps watching us film this ad, and he said, 'What do you think?' And she just kind of slowly turned her head and said, 'Not corny.' And he said, 'OK, let's go.' I knew where I stood in the pantheon of advisers to Barack Obama. But I have never been more grateful to anyone than I was to Michelle Obama on that day, because I had no backup plan; I was so wedded to 'yes we can' as the slogan for the campaign."

Fadi

That story about Michelle Obama being the final say for "Yes We Can" was heartwarming.

Gary D.

Tagline grounds the entire team to the foundation like a mission statement.