Buch vs. Kerry internets
With the US Presidential elections in short order, voters and interested bystanders have eagerly been tuning in to the debates, watching President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry present their spin on issues such as the war in Iraq, healthcare and a myriad of other pressing topics.
From a branding perspective, George W. Bush has traditionally presented himself as a stalwart, unapologetic everyman with old-fashioned values. He delivers conservative views in a direct manner, keeping his language simple and accessible.
Labeled by President Bush as a "Massachusetts Liberal," Senator John Kerry is accused of being indirect in his messaging but is quite articulate, even-keeled and smootha diplomatic personality in contrast to Bushs straight-shooting maverick.
As the final days of campaigning approach and both candidates vie aggressively for each vote, we cruised both JohnKerry.com and GeorgeBush.com to see which site would earn our vote from a branding perspective.
Ironically, as different as these two candidates are in approach, both sites seem to be almost mutually derivative. Strikingly similar in structure and content, both sites take a "newsy" approach to their information layout and achieve a patriotic look and feel with the predictable use of red, white and blue. Its almost as if they were created by the same information architect. Both have up-to-the-minute central visuals of the candidates on the campaign trail, and left-side navigation bars (Kerrys is called "Get informed" while Bushs is called "Stay informed") populated with links to biographies of each candidate, their wives, their Vice Presidential candidates and their VPs' wives. As both candidates have daughters in their early 20s, both sites have sections highlighting the daughters to appeal to younger voters.
Georgebush.com is well organized and broken down into sub-categories for an easy browsing experience. By clicking on a tab that looks like a file near the top of the page, users can easily read the Presidents accomplishments and views on issues like Jobs & Economy, Compassion (a favorite buzz word of the campaign) & Values, Education, Health Care, Safety & Security and Environment & Energy. The tone of GeorgeBush.com falls directly in line with his personal brand of messaging. He positions himself as a pragmatist of the people, who will lead the nation "with clarity and conviction." In an effort to appeal to his followers, which tend to be conservative and rightwing, certain policy areas are backed by soft music and taglines to elicit a sense of security. "A Plan for a Safer world and More Hopeful America," connects to a downloadable, printable policy sheeta smart feature for visitors who might not like to read online. The "Keep America Strong" tagline is perilously close to Senator Kerrys campaign tagline, "A Stronger America."
Bush also devotes a considerable amount of web-space to slagging his opponent. A prominent box on the home page, "John Kerry: the raw deal" claims Kerry "has been on the wrong side of every national security issue for the past 20 years," an appeal to retain voters in this delicate time of war. The Kerry Media Center employs features like the "Kerry flip flop of the day," and a creative page devoted to Kerry on Iraq, complete with a timeline outlining his "shifting position" using rollover functionality and pop up comments. One wonders what would happen if P&G devoted a section of its site solely to disparaging Unilever.
JohnKerry.com falls right in line with the candidates assertive debate style and campaign pitch. He positions himself as an intellectual people person who will come in and right the wrongs of the President, but he doesnt expend as much energy attacking his opponents shortcomings online. His anti-Bush page, "W stands for Wrong," outlines the negatives in President Bush's policies using the word "wrong" in front of issues like "Wrong on Iraq," "Wrong on the Economy," "Wrong on Healthcare," "Wrong for Women," and the list goes on. Each issue page outlines how Bush has fallen short on a certain issue, but there is also prominently placed information in readable and pdf versions on exactly how the Kerry-Edwards team plans to make the wrong righta smart, proactive approach.
Those looking to understand Senator Kerrys stance on issues are well serviced by the comprehensive information available on his website. His policy content is organized by topic on the left navigation bar, just below his personal information. The overall messaging extrapolates on the "A Stronger America" tag, using terms like "Stronger American Families," and "A Cleaner Environment" to begin his outline on how he would improve the country. In other instances, Kerry uses more goal oriented language such as "World Class Education for All" and "Affordable Healthcare for All" action terms that might appeal to voters. The Democratic party area, "Take Action" is where users can volunteer, make a contribution, plan a house party or find a nearby event by simply entering a ZIP Codea nice feature.
Ironically, JohnKerry.com and GeorgeBush.com have a myriad of similarities when it comes to look and feel (Americana) and site content organization. Both candidates come out slugging online, even in subtle waysBush as the no-nonsense everyman and Kerry as the educated, genteel diplomat. As far as branding is concerned, like the candidates stump speeches, these websites communicate exactly what their respective namesakes' brands are about.