Anyone who thinks that we’re not living in a visual society should watch — and rewatch — the Presidential debates. Specifically, the first one at the University of Denver gave us an incredibly smart example of how important visual perception can be.
The screen was split for much of the contest, giving us the opportunity to evaluate the real-time gestures and facial expressions of the candidates. We saw the genuine, undeniable demeanor of the both speakers at a level of scrutiny never witnessed before. Large high definition screens didn’t betray the slightest grimace, smile, wince or blink of an eye; contemporary sound systems reflected every miniscule inflection of their voices. As if that were not enough, we had the immediacy of Twitter observations to validate or correct our thoughts. And the fact-checkers and pundits were all there the second the debate was finished to elaborate on what we thought and felt we had just witnessed.
I’m not exactly a political pundit, but even I could sense the energy and confidence, the sense of assertiveness and the will to communicate better, all imparted by Mr. Romney. Conversely, President Obama appeared tense at times, defensive and even resentful to be defending his position. On the occasions when the President appeared engaged, his inclination to quietly, intellectually analyze the situation was in stark, flat contrast to what felt like a passionate commitment and determined style of communication by Mr. Romney.
I’m bipartisan in my views of political doctrine and I can admit that I believe the President has done a fine job in many areas of policy, not the least of which has been navigating an increasingly dubious and tricky position in foreign affairs. But the differences seemed clear, even magnified by the resolution of the image and the severe crop on the faces of both candidates. Even The New York Times, historically positioned on the left, published an article declaring Romney as the winner:
For me, this was a great example of what visuals can achieve in terms of brand image. I always tell our clients that design is important, that the creative expression of their brand can provide a perception of greater credibility. Design and visual expression can add authority to the brand, change erroneous views, build recognition, create joy or fear, or instill feelings of security or even nostalgia. In this case, it was not a photograph or animation or video or even soundtrack. It was a subtle nod of the head, a glance down or away, a telling look of disgust, a smug shrug of the shoulders.
Will Mr. Romney’s performance be considered a critical success and box office bust? The debate was viewed as a success for Mr. Romney, but will that be only through the eyes of news anchors and journalists? Or will it carry through to a larger audience of voters? In time, I’m sure the polls will share more. But one thing is certain: If brand and marketing is about gaining access to eyeballs, both candidates certainly managed to do that. About 40 million viewers were expected to tune in; as it turned out, 60 million watched. And those eyeballs were watching; they captured images that resonated, they formed opinions and lasting perceptions that will no doubt have some impact on the election, as well as our views on both the Republican and Democratic parties for many years.
This entry was posted on Thursday, October 4th, 2012 at 5:28 pm and is filed under Brand Identity, Business, Customer Experience, Marketing, Media, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.