What do Abraham Lincoln & A Personal Brand Have in Common?

February 17, 2014 Updated: April 24, 2016

I was listening to the radio last week when the umpteenth commercial for Honda’s Presidents Day Car Sale came on.  As usual, they used the key words like “presidential”, “crossing the frontier” and “historical” but what surprised me the most was that they focused the entire commercial spot on Abraham Lincoln. With over 40 presidents to choose from, this got me thinking. What does Abraham Lincoln have that the other Presidents don’t?

Abraham Lincoln is often used as a symbol of justice and what is “right” with America. For those who are not Lincoln aficionados, he is most celebrated for ending both slavery and the civil war.  But nearly 150 years after his death Lincoln’s powerful image and meaning is used in actual presidential speeches to Mountain Dew, Geico, Honda & Apple’s to Apple’s commercials (see below) only to mention a few. The reason for this? Lincoln has awesome lasting Presidential brand. And, we can all learn a thing or two from him.

Any brand specialist will tell you that it all starts with a name. A name is crucial to begin the emotional bond between your brand and your product or service. The name you choose should illicit some mystery or obscure reference which will start the emotional connection. Obscure brand names often work better as they stand out from the competition and are easier to remember i.e. Abraham Lincoln.

The next key step to building a lasting brand is imagery. A logo in particular is incredibly important in order to keep your brand fresh in a customer’s mind. And, what is Abraham Lincoln most known for other than stopping slavery? His image. Lincoln was a staggering 6 foot 4 –incredibly tall for the 19th century- with gangly arms and legs and an unhealthy yellow complexion. In branding terms –he was unforgettable.

Lastly, as Entrepreneur Magazine points out, “Branding happens in the minds of consumers” which means that perception is everything. Lincoln never had to go through the scrutiny that most political officials face today. There was no Barbara Walters interview when his sons died and Oprah didn’t try to console him when his wife went crazy, which means that we don’t focus on these parts of Lincoln’s life as much as we do the benefits of him holding Presidential Office. Our perception of Lincoln in the end boils down to gratitude and gratefulness –two very strong and powerful emotions. And, yes, a perfect brand recipe.

Today, building a Presidential brand as lasting as Lincoln is incredibly challenging not only because of an increase in competition but because nearly every company is focusing on their brand strategy and this has created a lot of noise. Breaking though the clutter takes originality, innovation and a lot of money. For small business owners, this is why relationships and loyalty are so important. If you are focusing on how to build your Presidential ever-lasting brand then remember to always bring it back to your customers. Ask them for feedback constantly and listen to what they have to say. If they feel you are taking their suggestions seriously –that you are actually doing something to help them- then this will illicit loyalty, user engagement and yes, of course, brand awareness. 


Geico Lincoln Ad



Mountian Dew Lincoln Ad

Apples to Apples Lincoln Ad