News Release: Faculty Experts, Politics

Jan. 19,  2010

The Challenges of Managing a Presidential Brand

News Article ImagePresident Barack Obama delivers remarks at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Pete Souza)

From Knowledge@Emory

If U.S. President Barack Obama were a brand, he'd be in trouble right now, according to some observers. But faculty from Emory University and its Goizueta Business School are not so quick to count him out.

Like a product that starts out strong only to see its sales sputter, Obama entered the White House on a tide of high hopes and garnered a Nobel Peace Prize within months of his ascension to America's highest elected office. Yet despite admirable performances like snatching the economy back from the brink of a depression and tackling problem issues like health care that had been avoided for decades, his recent ratings in the polls are weakening, and even some fellow Democrats are rebelling against him.

At the start of his second year in the Oval Office, 50 percent of Americans approve of his overall job performance while 44 percent disapprove, according to a January 6 report by polling and consulting firm Gallup Inc.

"This is well below the 68 percent approval rating Obama received in his first few days as president, and matches his average for all of December-which included many days when public support for him fell slightly below that important [50 percent] symbolic threshold," Gallup announced.

Obama's initial approval rating in his second year as president "is among the lowest for elected presidents since Dwight Eisenhower," according to Gallup. "Only [former president] Ronald Reagan-who, like Obama, took office during challenging economic times-began his second year in office with a lower approval score [49 percent]."

The significance of the low numbers may be open to debate. Reagan, for example, won reelection despite his record-low poll numbers, while President George H. W. Bush lost his bid for a second term despite capturing an 80 percent voter approval rate at the beginning of his second year in office.

"To some extent, the personality cult that was built up around President Obama is now responsible for a backlash," says Jagdish Sheth, a chaired professor of marketing at Goizueta and a corporate strategist. "Over time, it can be very difficult to manage a personality brand that assumes a cult-like status, as Obama's initially did."

The expectations surrounding Obama were so high to begin with that some falloff was almost inevitable, Sheth notes.

Read the complete article at Knowledge@Emory.

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