By John Camera
NEW PALTZ – What’s in a sign? More than you may think. Scoff all you want at your neighbors’ Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton yard sign, but appreciate for a moment the worlds of politics and marketing coming together to create this important piece of each candidate’s campaign.
By now the content of both signs are easily recognizable since they have been repeated and reused by each campaign. Clinton’s upper-case “H” with the arrow is seen in promotional photos for her candidacy. For Trump, his slogan that electrifies his base, “Make America Great Again!” rests below the president’s and vice president’s surnames. However experts agree each sign has its own set of positives and negatives.
Scott Minkoff, a political science professor at SUNY New Paltz, analyzes the signs intently before beginning to list what is good and bad about them. Clinton’s “H” logo grabs your attention first, but is not very effective in its simplicity, Minkoff opines. Trump’s is more traditional than Clinton’s in its structure; president, followed by vice president, followed by slogan. The red border and white stars emphasize patriotism, Minkoff said, and they are a part of the traditional route the Republican candidate takes.
Although Trump doesn’t have a logo like Clinton, Minkoff notices that the New York businessman instead uses his name, a name that has become synonymous with American business and entertainment over the years, as his logo of sorts.
“Trump is lacking what we call a ground game,” Minkoff said, otherwise known as groups of supporters who knock on doors, make phone calls and pass out these very yard signs. “So as a result, my colleagues in other states, swing states in particular, have told me that the amounts of signs are down this year, especially Trump signs.”
For the marketing perspective, there is Cody Schatzle, an employee at local Hudson Valley marketing agency, Query Creative. His interpretations of the signs complement some of what Minkoff said. Schatzle also notes the draw to Clinton’s arrow and Trump’s signature saying. But being a marketing expert, Schatzle adds a different view for what else he sees with each sign.
“Clinton’s sign appears friendlier and more thoughtful whereas Trump’s is more masculine and forceful,” Schatzle said. Fonts and colors have a lot to do with it, he explained; Clinton’s lighter shade of blue on her arrow with rounder letters project a calmer tone while Trump’s mostly dark blue and red bordered sign and sharp, upper-case lettering create the opposite feel.
Schatzle continued his breakdown, noting how although some don’t like the Clinton “H” and arrow, Scott Minkoff being one of them, the marketing expert thinks the campaign has done a good job creating popularity for the logo by using it in other pictures and ads for Clinton. On the other hand, Schatzle felt that Trump’s slogan, although popular and effective in getting his base fired up, may not attract many swing voters because it’s so ambiguous.
“It does beg the question ‘When was America great?,'” Schatzle said. “Given that, I’d say it’s not an effective slogan overall because it is so obviously partisan. Slogans are always up for interpretation, especially in politics, and candidates would do well to not give people an easy way to interpret them in a way they didn’t intend. To me, the slogan alienates a lot of people.”
Despite all the work the candidates do with speeches, photo-ops, and yes, campaign signs, it all comes down to Nov. 8. Could either sign do more to attract the undecided voters who will decide this election? Schatzle doesn’t think so: “They appeal to the people they’re meant to appeal to.”
Here’s to hoping the next president will do what their sign couldn’t.