Breakout Brands: An Ironic, Yet Necessary, Concept to Apply to the Election

A PR firm in Coral Gables, Florida, called rbb Public Relations has defined a new concept called “breakout brands,” according to Forbes.

Breakout Brands – brands that “focus on the customer and customer’s needs rather than imitating or downgrading the competition.”

That definition comes straight from rbb CEO Christine Barney. Rbb’s examples include McDonald’s, Apple, Toyota, Exxon, and Caterpillar.

More interesting is how rbb applied its new concept to the presidential election. It surveyed 2,141 adults between Aug. 20–22 and asked them 25 questions about these brands, probing how they interact with the companies. The survey also asked about who they plan to vote for.

Credit: Forbes

Romney supporters’ top five brands were: Walmart, Caterpillar, McDonald’s, ExxonMobil, and UPS.

Obama supporters’ top five brands were: Google, Whole Foods, Volkswagon, Starbucks, and GE.

How ironic that a survey based on a concept “that (doesn’t) try to challenge or attack other brands, but rather stand on their own merits” asks about who you’re voting for. I think we can all agree the presidential election has been nothing if not a schmearfest of inaccurate and often trivial ads and claims (need I point you to Obama’s latest Big Bird ad campaign below?), or in other words, the exact opposite of breakout branding.

According to rbb, three elements define a breakout brand:

  1. It forgets chasing and focuses on leading: “Breakout Brands are companies of all sizes and sometimes are already the owners of the top slot.”
  2. Create the future: “They are original, groundbreaking, and inventive.”
  3. Communication first, second, and third: “Consider how many companies try to promote customer service as a differentiator but are loathe to give out a customer support phone number in favor of pushing online FAQ.”

Neither of our presidential candidates have focused on leading. They’ve focused on attacking the other, as witnessed during their presidential debate last week, and while they believe this is the way to win us over, it’s not. If I wanted to watch little boys fight over who tells more lies, I’d become a kindergarten teacher.

As to creating a future, I also haven’t heard much in terms of specific policy that Obama or Romney is going to offer. I know Romney says he will cut taxes, get rid of PBS, and re-erect the white picket fences of the “Leave it to Beaver” era. I’d like to know what Obama has planned, but when I went to his website to investigate, I was only offered posts explaining why Paul Ryan is a liar:

I thought Obama’s website would tell me his plans for the future, but I was limited to a parade of Romney’s and Ryan’s falsities. As a voter who is trying to be as informed as possible, I’m disappointed and more than a bit insulted that the Obama campaign assumes I’d rather read schmear blog posts than a careful analysis of his policies.

And this sums up how both campaigns have failed to communicate anything valuable to voters.

I love the idea of breakout branding. I think companies that do it well know that good branding does not arise from attacking competitors but rather comparing yourself to them.

Remember Apple’s ad campaign from 2005–2007 with Justin Long? Long acted as a Mac and another actor was a PC. While a dainty piano ditty played in the background, they compared themselves. I don’t think any PC users felt ashamed to own a PC after watching these ads. But they did find out something valuable and informative about Macs. And that was all.

How revolutionary.


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