Like Obama, Companies Sell Own Brand Of Change During his election campaign, Barack Obama branded a message of change with the word "hope" and the slogan "Yes We Can." Now companies such as Ben & Jerry's, PepsiCo and IKEA appear to be riding the Obama wave by using themes of change and optimism to sell products.
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Like Obama, Companies Sell Own Brand Of Change

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Like Obama, Companies Sell Own Brand Of Change

Like Obama, Companies Sell Own Brand Of Change

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More than any other presidential candidate in recent memory, President-elect Barack Obama has been a master of branding. His campaign had a bold logo and simple mottos like "hope," "change" and "Yes, We Can." Now, some companies are hoping to ride Mr. Obama's wave by selling their own brand of change. Reporter Tamara Keith has more.

TAMARA KEITH: Ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry's is known for its topical flavors, so perhaps it isn't a surprise that their latest treat is called Yes Pecan, as in "Yes, We Can," except with nuts. Ben & Jerry's is describing them as roasted nonpartisan pecans, surrounded by amber waves of buttery ice cream.

Unidentified Saleswoman: Good morning. Would you like to register for an IKEA...?

Unidentified Woman: I can't right now.

Unidentified Saleswoman: No, that's fine. You just take it home with you.

Unidentified Woman: OK.

Unidentified Saleswoman: You design your own Oval Office.

KEITH: At Washington, D.C.'s Union Station, furniture store IKEA set up its own version of the Oval Office for a campaign it's calling Embrace Change '09. There are even campaign buttons.

Ms. MARTY MARSTON (Public Relation Manager, IKEA USA): We've created a replica of the Oval Office using IKEA furnishings.

KEITH: So, it's a little different.

Ms. MARSTON: It's a lot different.

KEITH: Marty Marston is the public-relations manager for IKEA in the United States. The Swedish company made its name with sleek designs and cheap bookcases, and there are quite a few of those in this Oval Office. Marston says IKEA's advertisements around Washington, D.C., include slogans like It's Time for Fiscal Responsibility and Change Begins at Home.

Ms. MARSTON: We really believe that change starts at home, and if we think about what's going to happen in the White House, I mean, that certainly is the most iconic home in the world, and change is about to occur there.

KEITH: Commuter Vanessa Porter grabs a catalogue as she runs off to work. The not-so-subtle tie-in to the inauguration and President-elect Obama doesn't bother her a bit.

Ms. VANESSA PORTER: I think it's a great idea. What, over a million people are going to be here this weekend? Why not?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PORTER: Everybody else is.

KEITH: Including possibly, though, not officially, one of America's most venerable brands. Have you seen the news Pepsi logo? Ken Wheaton is an editor at Advertising Age.

Mr. KEN WHEATON (Editor, Advertising Age): I think whether Pepsi meant it or not, or whether they'd like it to or not, there is sort of a blatant visual symbolism there. Their new logo looks, you know, quite similar to Obama's logo.

KEITH: Pepsi officials deny the connection. But there's no denying the bubbly-drink maker has picked up on some of the themes of Mr. Obama's campaign.

(Soundbite of Pepsi-Cola television ad)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) And the world is made of vanity. And the world is electricity. And the world...

KEITH: In this television ad, words and Pepsi logos flash on a brightly colored screen. It includes the phrase, It's Time for Optimism." There are signs, too, declaring, Yes, You Can and All for One. The Os are replaced with Pepsi logos.

Mr. FRANK COOPER (Vice President, Portfolio Brands, Pepsi-Cola North America): There's this hunger, this need, for hope and optimism, and it aligns well with our brand.

KEITH: Frank Cooper is vice president of portfolio brands at Pepsi-Cola.

Mr. COOPER: We didn't set out to kind of align ourselves and say, let's deconstruct Barack Obama's campaign and see if we can understand how he developed that as a brand. It just so happened that as we looked at the underlying trends in culture today, we saw the same thing.

KEITH: Coincidence or not, Adonis Hoffman, senior vice president at the American Association of Advertising Agencies, isn't surprised this is happening. He says something similar happened with some of President Reagan's campaign themes.

Mr. ADONIS HOFFMAN (Senior Vice President and Counsel, American Association of Advertising Agencies): We saw a little bit of that creep into some commercial marketing and commercial messaging. But my recollection - and I was around during those days - not anything as widespread as what we've seen with President-elect Obama's brand and messaging and the resonance that it has had and he has had with commercial marketers.

KEITH: Of course, there are also risks, like upsetting the millions of people who voted for someone else. For NPR News, I'm Tamara Keith in Washington.

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