On Monday, Jeb Bush released his 2016 presidential campaign logo, right before his official announcement. The logo made waves on the internet as people critiqued the Republican candidate’s choice to use just his first name. Jeb Bush also finishes his logo with a prominent exclamation point. However, it is not as much the font, color, or exclamation point that makes Jeb’s logo interesting to people across the internet; it is what is missing from his logo. Jeb Bush left out any marking of his last name ‘Bush.’ In reviewing Jeb’s political career, the use of his first name is not a new campaign strategy. After all, not only was his brother, George W. Bush, a past president, but also his father, George H.W. Bush. Even before Jeb began his political career his family name was tied to his father’s presidential years, which may have prompted his original use of ‘Jeb’ in his first governor run in 1998. Since then, with George W. Bush spending 8 years in office, even more politics became associated with the surname Bush. So as Jeb Bush begins his run for the 2016 presidential race, defining who he is as an individual, separate from his political family is never more important to his career.
The Power in a Logo
Logos are deeply ingrained within societies and cultures. Businessmen and politicians spend billions of dollars a year on marketing to design an image that will best represent their brand and their values. Hours of time is spent on narrowing down the right color and font to use when designing a campaign logo. With so much effort into a seemingly simple looking design, what is the power logos can have over human beings?
Images and colors trigger various emotions within human beings. A logo operates by building an association with whomever or whatever that logo is representing. The logo will be able to evoke a positive set of emotions all by itself, however, it is also a matter of the politician or company bridging the positive emotions with the minds of the target audience. As much as a logo can evoke positive emotions, a logo can also end up associated with negative ideals as well. The goal for any logo is to best convey the values of the person or business represented by the logo. Jeb Bush’s logo, despite being only three red letters with an exclamation point, says a lot about the goal of the Republican candidate. By intentionally leaving out the Bush surname, Jeb is making a point that he is his own person, and he wants his own political ideals to be attached with the name Jeb, not the name Bush.
Similar to logos creating powerful associations of meaning, families also bind people together under one value. In many cultures and contexts, individuals in a family are chosen to represent the family name. Parents of many ethnicities instill this concept of representing the family in their children as they grow. The belief is that the actions and choices of the child or adult child will reflect on the parent, and sometimes even their parents. A teacher that has had an older sibling as a student may have some automatic associations with a younger student. The teacher has formed an implicit attitude about the younger sibling based of the original attribution of the older sibling.
Jeb Bush, in simply being born the son and brother of past presidents, is now implicitly associated with the attributes Americans have attached to his father and brother. No matter a person’s political affiliations or beliefs, the automatic response to Jeb Bush is most likely driven by that person’s judgments of Jeb’s father and brother. As individuals formed attitudes and attached attributes to George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, an implicit association was made with the Bush family name. As a result, many people have automatic responses that clump Jeb Bush with the attributes associated with his father and brother.
Many studies have been performed in social psychology using the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to determine the strength of an association between a certain idea or person and various attributes. Such research has provided evidence to the power of association and how each human being is unconsciously attaching meaning to certain people (Fazio & Olson, 2003).
Jeb Bush faces multiple obstacles in running for president, as any candidate from any party does. However, Jeb also faces the obstacle of breaking the implicit associations people have of him that stem from his father’s and brother’s presidencies. Using ‘Jeb!’ as his logo, Jeb is making an initial stance at breaking himself from his family legacy. That is not to say Jeb will not remain close or supported by his family, but rather he is attempting to create his own individual image and values. In psychology, one way to break such ingrained implicit associations, is for a person to be very explicit as to what they believe and emphasize how they are different. Such explicit language may grab the attention of Americans and work to create different associations with the ‘Jeb!’ logo.
Fazio, R. H., & Olson, M. A. (2003). Implicit measures in social cognition research: Their meaning and use. Annual review of psychology, 54(1), 297-327.
Greenwald, A. G., McGhee, D. E., & Schwartz, J. L. (1998). Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: the implicit association test. Journal of personality and social psychology, 74(6), 1464.
Park, C. W., Eisingerich, A. B., & Pol, G. (2014). The power of a good logo. MIT Sloan Management Review, 55(2), 10.