Ginsburg Launches Obama Era
Armies wear insignias. Automobiles wear hood ornaments. But you'd be wrong to assume that brand association occurs merely in the visual world. Brands flourish in the conceptual world, too. And a large component of a brand's viability is timing. Such is the case of the new era of "brand Obama," which many mistakenly believe occurred in November of 2008.
While it's true that Barack Obama's somewhat vague theories of change were enthusiastically embraced by the American voting public in November, 2008, the truth is that nothing of substance really occurred that day. Symbolic as it was, the next day was business as usual in the Bush administration. The excitement throughout the country was palpable, though, and lingered until the next theoretical target date: Inauguration Day.
On January 20, 2009, Obama was sworn in as President of the United States. Millions of onlookers braved the fierce frigidity of Washington, D.C. to witness the spectacle. Millions more tearfully viewed it on television. It was a great moment for the country. A great moment in history. But that's all it really was. A great moment, perhaps, but not the true beginning of the Obama era.
I can't help it. I'm a branding guy, but I'm a results-driven branding guy.
From where I sit, the true beginning of the Obama legacy actually begins on February, 5, 2009, the day Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced she'd been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Although Justice Ginsburg has survived a previous bout with cancer, and this occurrence was diagnosed early, her prospects at this point are -- at the very least -- going to make it difficult for her to fulfill her obligations. As anyone who knows a cancer patient can tell you, the treatments often drain the patient of energy and drive. It often sidelines them from work.
Which, from a branding perspective, means Obama got elected just in time.
Brand Obama's first great opportunity for real change will not come in the form of a stimulus package. Or a social program. Or a deal that rebuilds the country's roads and bridges. Obama's legacy of change will stem from the very real, inevitable, history-altering occasion on which he appoints Justice Ginsburg's replacement. Too many voters forget that prior to November, 2008, the Supreme Court was teetering dangerously toward a one-sided viewpoint on just about every issue brought for its consideration. Had John McCain been elected, the ensuing replacement justices would have tipped the balance of a branch of government -- designed to be impartial -- into a far-right dominance that would have lasted at least one generation and possibly longer.
So while everyone else seems to be missing the boat and silk-screening images of the President onto everything that soaks up ink, the true effect of "brand Obama" begins on February 5, 2009. The day America woke up -- hopefully -- to realize just how close it came to seeing its brand of justice go over the cliff.