Everything Speaks: Inauguration Edition
By Patricia Denci
This past Wednesday, Americans were glued to their TV sets watching the inauguration of the 46th President of The United States, Joe Biden. Beyond the words of the presidential oath, the fashion and symbols used during the inauguration by the President, Vice President and attendees spoke volumes. As The New York Times explained, “It was impossible to ignore how the new administration used what they wore to tell a story in a moment when the eyes of the world were on them.” At Double Forte, we often say “everything speaks” to describe how every element of your presence communicates countless messages on your behalf to colleagues and clients. (Check out the podcast!). For brands and marketers, the fashions of the inauguration can serve as a reminder of the many facets that speak about a product and reveal a company’s values.
President Joe Biden wore Ralph Lauren, an American designer who as The New York Times describes has built, “his reputation on channeling the mythology of the American dream.” By wearing Ralph Lauren, Biden communicated, not only his commitment to American-made, but also to supporting the American dream.
For brands, the fanfare of the inauguration is a reminder to look at every aspect of your product. Are your values highlighted at every opportunity? For example, a company with a stated value of sustainability could have a product made with recycled plastic from the ocean, but there are numerous other ways beyond the physical product and how it’s made to reinforce a commitment to sustainability. Is the brand packaging recyclable? Are the employees paid a liveable wage? Are the shipping materials recyclable? Sustainability is more than just the physical product. A company could be missing opportunities to underscore its values if it does not consider all aspects of the product and experience that speak to consumers.
Another example from the inauguration was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He was the subject of countless memes following the event, thanks to his casual outfit that may have appeared out of place in comparison to other attendees’ more formal attire. The ensemble perfectly reflected Senator Sanders’ role in representing the state of Vermont. He wore a jacket from Vermont-based Burton Snowboards and handmade mittens made by a Vermont school teacher. Senator Sanders explained, “You know in Vermont, we dress warm, we know something about the cold, and we’re not so concerned about good fashion.” He even used his newfound meme status to create a sweatshirt featuring his inauguration image that donates 100% of the proceeds to Meals on Wheels Vermont. Senator Sanders seamlessly uses all facets of his persona, including his fashion choices and internet buzz to support his larger goal of creating a better life for Vermont residents.
As a marketer you too are representing your brands to everyone you meet. It’s important to consider the message your clothing is communicating. Does your outfit reflect your brands’ ethos? Imagine working for an outdoor sports company and presenting to a sales teams in a formal suit and tie. Brand messages are expressed more effectively when they are reflected in every aspect of a person, from the words they are using to the clothes they are wearing. Every opportunity should be leveraged as a moment to communicate a brand’s benefits and value.
There are countless other examples of symbolism from the fashion choices at the inauguration. They include the various shades of purple selected by Vice President Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton and Former First Lady Michelle Obama. Purple, the color created when red and blue combine, was used to symbolize a coming together of two political parties. Another example is the caged bird ring selected by Amanda Gorman in honor of fellow Inaugural Poet Maya Angelou. As The New York Times explains “It wasn’t really about fashion at all, but rather about values and signifying intent.” The same should be said for brands – it’s more than packaging and shipping materials, it’s an opportunity to express company values to consumers. Take advantage of all the elements that speak on the brand’s behalf.