The Ink Blot Campaign

Richard C. Harwood, President, The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation Wow, last night was some show of force. What's left to say. Is anyone still alive? President Bush's speech is almost anti-climatic, which may be by design. Which leads me to this thought. Have you noticed the big blue "W" signs everywhere at the convention? In fact, before the convention, USA Today had a front page photo of the president with a big "W" sign right off to his side. Every time I see this "W" I feel as though we have reached a new level of "branding" candidates. It's like when the musician Prince changed his name to a symbol. No need for names anymore! I think of "W" as a strong letter. Maybe it stands for "warrior" or "wisdom" -- certainly not wimp, that's what the Bush folks have dubbed their opponent. I suspect the Bush people would also like it to stand for "women"; that way they can address any gender gap. Next, one can only expect Kerry to develop his own moniker, one to which he has alluded in the past, but hasn't really exploited: "JFK." Then we will have the battle between "W" and "JFK." So, as with Prince, no need for names -- first or last. No need for all that many words, either. The campaign will simply be a new kind of ink blot test: do voters respond better to "W" or "JFK"? We are in the process of attaching all sorts of meanings to them. Which connotations will voters respond to? It's strange that the more there is at stake, the less we talk about it, and the more we get back to our basic letters. Is that what is meant when people say everything we need to know we learned in kindergarten? So, I want to get in early on this new trend. Just call me RH.