What presidential elections can teach about building a personal brand.

If you’re looking for model examples of personal branding, marketing, and sales, look no further than a presidential election. In any election, candidates are chosen based on popular opinion. Simply put, a candidate is a ‘product’ that is being sold to the American public. The winner being the side that had the most buyers.

When we think about our products or services in this light, it is easy to see the importance of our branding and marketing strategies.

Let’s take the historic 1960 presidential debate…

This debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy went down in history as the first televised debate in the history of our country. This debate between the two candidates aired over the radio as well as being televised. The people that listened to the debate over the radio favored Nixon for the presidency. They agreed with his policy and enjoyed his strong verbal debating style. However, people that watched the debate on television favored Kennedy for the presidency. They saw him as the stronger, more presidential candidate of the two.

What happened is no secret.

winning presidential smiles

The presentation skills of the two candidates was no contest. Nixon was sweaty, hunched over, sickly, and didn’t smile. Kennedy, on the other hand, was calm, collected, energetic, and kind. Very simply, Kennedy looked  presidential. The American people trusted him because he looked trustworthy. His appearance contributed to his being able to build rapport with the people.

 

As shallow as it may seem, we all do this. According to Forbes, your pay rate is affected by physical characteristics, such as height, weight, and hair color.

In addition, according to a scientific study published in Psychological Science, humans take an average of 0.1 seconds (1/10th of a second!) to evaluate someone on their traits, such as their trustworthiness, competence, and likability.

Did you catch that?

1/10th of a second?! This is before someone can evaluate behavioral-style, educational status, or even catch a name.

So, what is this evaluation based on?

A face.

More specifically, facial composition and expressions.

The most important facial expression for winning over a crowd? A SMILE.

It’s true. According to the Kelton Global Smile Study, 73{db95e0fd77ae6d141d4535e2bf7b464d98e4151322120f553d7786be9a7303be} of Americans are more likely to trust someone based on their smile.

 

This fact is supported by an interesting correlation we have noticed in presidential candidates since debates and candidates became televised.

Without exception, the presidential candidate with the best smile wins the election.

Winning presidential smiles = winning presidential candidates.

Don’t believe us? Have a look!

 

 

winning presidential smile

 

Despite the fact that Nixon was the favorite and incumbent VP, once televised, no one could resist the Kennedy charm. John Kennedy squeezes by Richard Nixon to win the election. While both candidates did smile throughout the campaign, Nixon’s smile wasn’t as large and inviting as Kennedy’s. More importantly, the image of Nixon painted in most viewers minds after the debates was of him with a more serious expression.

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winning presidential smiles

 

1964 was tough election year for smiling. Neither candidate had a great smile and neither of them used the smiles they did have very often.

In this case, many times the winning votes sway towards the candidate that had the best publicized smile. As you can see above, the photos of Johnson in The Post show him with a genuine smile. Most of Goldwater’s publicity materials, including his own fliers, show a serious expression. Although no one smiles all the time, as we saw with Nixon in 1960, the real concern needs to be the overall image (smiling or serious) the candidate imprints into a person’s mind.

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winning presidential smiles

Nixon learned from the defeat in 1960 and continues to smile throughout the campaign. In fact, Nixon’s smile was so prevalent, this expression has been turned into a popular character mask today. Humphrey on the other hand doesn’t have much of a smile in any of his debates or campaign material. As we’ve stated before, campaign buttons, TV and publicity pictures all play an important role in painting an image in the minds of people. Serious doesn’t sell.

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winning presidential smiles

 

Nixon keeps on smiling to win another election. What’s interesting is that McGovern doesn’t have a bad smile.

winning presidential smiles

 

 

McGovern has a pretty nice smile actually. The problem is that most of the American public didn’t get to see it. His campaign buttons, materials, and even the cover of TIME Magazine all featured him with a serious expression or a toothless smirk. This is the face that the American public remembered.

 

 

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winning presidential smiles

 

There really is no contest here. Carter’s smile could light up a room and he may have smiled more than Nixon. We had trouble finding a picture that didn’t have him smiling. Ford on the other hand keeps a very serious expression throughout his campaign.

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winning presidential smiles

 

This one was a real smile-a-thon. Both candidates had contagious smiles. What we think tipped the scales was that Ronald Reagan wasn’t making a first impression. He has already done that decades earlier as an actor.

winning presidential smiles

 

 

Ronald Reagan had built a lifetime of rapport, with a likability, charm, and a smile that America already recognized and trusted.

 

 

 

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winning presidential smiles

 

This is a hands down win for Reagan’s smile over Mondale’s ‘Mona Lisa‘. Mondale did not often smile in public and almost never showed his teeth, keeping him unapproachable and seemingly untrustworthy.

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winning presidential smiles

 

 

winning presidential smiles

 

Bush Sr. doesn’t have a great smile, but Dukakis didn’t show much of a smile at all.  And the smile he shows on his campaign button is more of a squint than a genuine smile.

 

 

 

 

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winning presidential smiles

 

Clinton has an infectious, warm, boyish grin that won over the American public. Bush Sr.’s aging face and poorly kept teeth cannot compete.

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winning presidential smiles

 

This is the best picture we could find of Bob Doyle smiling. Again, Clinton had a great smile filled with personality the American people could approach. Doyle seems out-of-date and forcing this smile.

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winning presidential smiles

 

On the few occasions Gore is caught cracking a smile, he doesn’t show his teeth. Most of the smiles he gives look more like grimaces. Bush Jr., like his father before him, doesn’t have a great smile. However, it is genuine and warm and able to beat out Gore’s.

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winning presidential smiles

 

This is another one of those instances when the publicity materials changed the game. Kerry has a pretty nice smile here.

winning presidential smiles

 

 

 

However, this face is the one that was plastered on all the campaign material. Forced and almost painful, the picture created a mental image of him being overly serious and insincere.

 

 

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winning presidential smiles

 

McCain didn’t stand a chance. On the rare occasion he smiled, it never showed any teeth and it looked much more painful, serious, and insincere. Obama’s smile is contagious and genuine, with a great set of teeth. The campaign capitalized on this asset and used those bright teeth as the sign of a brighter tomorrow.

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winning presidential smiles

 

Again, Mitt Romney doesn’t have a terrible smile. The problem is, the American people didn’t see much of it.

winning presidential smiles

 

 

This is the face we remember. That half smirk just couldn’t stack up with Obama’s big, natural smile.

 

 

 

 

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Smiles matter. Whether you’re making a first impression at a job interview, building relationships with client’s, or running for president of the United States. Remember to be mindful of the face, both physical and digital, that you are showing to your customers and employees alike. This could make all the difference in your business!

 

So, what do you think? Who’s smile will win the presidency this election?

 

winning presidential smiles