Branding the President: An Investigation into the Manipulative Tactics Embedded Within a Candidate’s Brand Identity

Authors: Duggan, A. and Veneti, A.

Journal: Journal of Promotional Communications

Volume: 6

Issue: 1

Pages: 1-23

The growth of marketing within a political environment has altered the way in which political candidates address potential voters. Shifting focus from policy centred to image centric, candidates now utilise branding as a key component in their campaign strategy. However, concern arises surrounding the emotionally manipulative aspect of the branding concept. When combined with rhetoric features, the candidate can consciously manipulate the feelings of the audience to induce a desired response. This strategic manipulation of language has the potential to shape a candidate’s brand identity, using it as a device to conceal manipulative behaviours. This study focuses on the 2016 U.S presidential election, assessing the speeches of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and examined the extent to which manipulative tactics were embedded within the politicians’ brand identity. A multi-tiered investigative procedure was created to examine the link between the brand identity and the rhetorical features, metaphor and mythology. A mixed-method research approach was followed, assessing six speech transcripts through a two-level content analysis. The results identified clear disparities between Trump’s and Clinton’s brand distinctiveness, highlighting the strength of Trump’s brand identity. The study further revealed an overwhelming presence of rhetorical techniques embedded within both candidates’ brand identity. However, the degree to which these were implemented differed between the opponents.

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