Business, Community & Government

Slogans and Logos

David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Lesson time 06:29 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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Topics include: The Power of a Great Slogan and Logo


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...

About the Instructor

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.

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David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Renowned presidential campaign strategists David Axelrod and Karl Rove reveal what goes into effective political strategy and messaging.

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