Lisa Merriam

Mr. Smith Doesn’t Go to Washington? Predicting Which Candidate Brand Wins

A brand name that is remembered is a brand name that wins in the marketplace—and possibly the polling place. The candidate brand matter.

What Makes a Name Memorable?

Many factors create name that is easy to remember: great features and benefits and effective, frequent advertising chief among them. In politics, things like party, platform, personality and past performance are key to any candidate brand.

That said a name with intrinsic memorability always has the leg up. The best brand names are unique. When I mention the brand Delta, do you think of airlines, faucets, power tools or dental insurance? It also helps to be unusual. Generic names are not memorable. That is why Walgreen’s is a better brand than A name that is evocative helps, even if the actual meaning isn’t clear. Häagen-Dazs might not mean anything, but it definitely sounds European, what with the ümlauts and all. Associations matter.

Smith Is NOT Distinctive, Evocative, Meaningful or Memorable

Do candidate brand names work like brand names? Does Mr. Rumplestiltskin have a better chance of election than Mr. Smith? We conducted a fast survey of top-of-mind associations with candidate brand names in the 2010 House and Senate races.

Winning Candidate Brand Names–Four Clear Insights:

1) Hyphenated names always lose. People seem to want you to have a clear, singular identity.
2) It helps a lot if your name makes people think about beer.
3) Celebrity associations are by far the most common, for good and bad.
4) Woe to the candidate who makes a voter remember an old girlfriend/boyfriend in a relationship that ended badly.

Here are the race-by-race winner picks–by name alone, asterix marks the panel’s winner:

US Congress

AL-2 Bright* Roby Roby is too much like Raby
AL-5 Griffith* Raby Raby too much like Roby
AR-1 Crawford Causey* A good cause or causing trouble
AR-2 Snyder* Griffin Griffin too much like Griffith
AR-4 Ross* Rankin Ranking high–too high; snooty
AZ-1 Kirkpatrick Gosar* Gosar just sounds friendly
AZ-3 Hulburd* Quayle Quayle brand too associated with other product, his Dad
AZ-5 Mitchell Schweikert Schweikert is so much fun to say
AZ-7 Grijalva* McClung Grijalva is so memorable; sounds like ice cream
AZ-8 Giffords* Kelly Giffords is a Washington ice cream store; also a football player
CA-11 McNerney* Harmer Who wants to elect a Harmer; rather have a Healer; though McNerney sounds nerdy
CA-18 Cardoza Berryhill* A thrill on blue Berryhill
CA-19 Goodwin* Denham Any name with good is good
CA-20 Vidak Costa* Vidak sounds like a drug
CA-3 Lungren Bera* Sounds like Yogi
CA-44 Calvert Hedrick* Heads are good
CA-45 Bono Mack* Pougnet Sonny Bono + U2’s Bono + Mack Daddy; other candidate sounds like poo
CA-47 Tran* Sanchez Like tran of thought
CO-2 Bailey* Polis Irish crème
CO-3 Salazar* Tipton Tipton sounds like a mean name; bossy cheerleader
CO-4 Markey Gardner* Growing in gardens is good
CO-7 Perlmutter Frazier* Brendan or the TV show
CT-1 Larson Brickley* Solid as a brick
CT-4 Himes Debicella* Makes me think of Debbie, in a good way
CT-5 Murphy* Caligiuri Caligula was famounsly bad. Murphy is the guy you want next to you in the bar.
DE-L Urquhart Carney* Other guy sounds like his name begins with a burp
FL-12 Putnam Edwards Draw–neither name stands out
FL-2 Boyd* Southerland Seems solid
FL-22 West* Klein Makes me think of the Western Frontier, cowboys, beautiful land
FL-24 Kosmas Miller* Beer!
FL-25 Diaz-Balart Garcia* Jerry!
FL-8 Grayson Webster* Grayson sounds like an old guy; Webster is the dictionary–very knowledgeable
GA-12 Barrow Burns* Barrow is a snooty name
GA-2 Bishop* Keown Don’t know how to say Keown
GA-8 Marshall* Scott Marshall Plan helped people
HI-1 Djou Hanabusa* Name is fun to say
IA-1 Lange* Braley Hockey skates
IA-2 Miller-Meeks Loebsack Sounds like something a rapper could work into a song
IA-3 Zaun Boswell* Zaun sounds somehow painful
ID-1 Labrador* Minnick Everybody loves dogs, especially big, silly dogs
ID-2 Crawford* Simpson* Tie between Cindy Crawford and Homer Simpson
IL-10 Dold Seals* Dolt who is old? Seals are so cute
IL-11 Halvorson Kinzinger* Zingers are exciting
IL-14 Foster* Hultgren Beer!
IL-17 Hare* Schilling Buggs Bunny for Congress
IL-8 Bean* Walsh Beans are good for you. Cute
IN-2 Walorski Donnelly* Sounds like a solid, upstanding person
IN-8 Ellsworth Van Haaften* Heavy metal name
IN-9 Hill* Young* Another draw–two names with bland associations
KS-3 Moore Yoder* Like Yoda
KS-4 Goyle* Pompeo Olive Oyle, gargoyle
KY-3 Lally Yarmuth* Lally sounds silly
KY-6 Barrow Chandler* Both snooty names, but Chandler has “Friends”
LA-2 Cao* Richmond Just sounds more interesting
LA-3 Melancon Sangisetty* Fun to say–sounds like a fun person who doesn’t take self seriously
MA-10 Delahunt* Keating Works better in a limerick
MA-4 Frank Beilat* Sounds like a humble person–Frank is first name/last name
MA-5 Tsongas Golnik* Good golly, it’s Golnick
MA-6 Tierney* Hudak Pretty actress
MD-1 Kratovil* Harris Sounds like a bug killer and Congress needs cleaning up
ME-1 Scontras Pingree* Rhymes with “agree”; just like the happy sound; Scontras is too nasal
ME-2 Levesque* Michaud Sounds descriptive–that statue is sooo levesque
MI-1 McDowell Benishek* Healthful, Flavorful, Beneful; benefiber
MI-15 Steele* Dingell Dingell sounds like Dingellberries
MI-3 Ehlers Amash* Sounds strong, compelling
MI-7 Walberg* Schauer Mark Wahlberg
MI-9 Peters* Raczkowski Can’t say the other one
MN-1 Walz* Demmer Demme and Demmers vs. a graceful dance
MN-3 Mullins Lujan* A Chicago DJ from the 1970’s; Lo-Jack
MN-6 Clark Bachmann* Clark bars don’t taste that great; Bachmann is pretzels
MN-7 Peterson Byberg* Seriously don’t know why, but I like this name better
MN-8 Oberstar Cravaack* Sounds like a Batman sound–punch The Joker in the jaw and cravaack!
MO-3 Carnahan Martin* Steve Martin among others
MO-4 Skelton* Hartzler Red Skelton
MO-5 Cleaver Turk* We need young Turks in Congress
MS-1 Childers Nunnelee* Don’t want none of Nunnelee
MS-2 Thompson Marcy* Makes me think of a nice girl
MS-4 Taylor Palazzo* Elegant pants, a nice home in Italy
NC-11 Shuler Miller* Beer!
NC-2 Etheridge Ellmers* Glue–gotta put stuff back together
NC-4 Price Lawson* Law and order–the other candidate might want to spend
NC-7 McIntyre* Pantano No reason given, but everyone likes this name bettere
NC-8 Johnson Kissell* Sounds like sweet little kiss
ND-AL Pomeroy* Berg Very cute dog
NE-2 Terry White Draw–neither name preferred and no associations with either name
NH-1 Shea-Porter Guinta* The other person sounds confused
NH-2 Kuster Bass* Beer! With the added bonus of fishing
NJ-1 Glading* Andrews And a glading time was had by all
NJ-12 Holt Sipprelle* A light drink in a sunny southern European square
NJ-2 Stein* LoBiondo What beer sometimes comes in
NJ-3 Runyan* Adler Paul Bunyan, Todd Ruddgren
NJ-6 Little Pallone* Italian bread specialty
NM-1 Barela Heinrich* Sounds like a manuever to help you stop choking to death
NM-2 Teague* Pearce In another league
NM-3 Luján* Mullins Lojack
NV-3 Titus* Heck A strong leader
NY-1 Bishop Altschuler* Old Skool
NY-13 McMahon Grimm* Fairy tale guy
NY-19 Hall Hayworth* Rita beats Hall & Oates
NY-20 Gibson Murphy* Always a straight up guy–good to have as a wingman
NY-22 Hinchey Phillips* Hinchey is too ginchey
NY-23 Owens Doheny* Fashionable street
NY-24 Hanna* Arcuri Makes great cartoons
NY-25 Maffei Buerkle* A cute burp
NY-29 Zeller* Reed Z words are always cool
NY-4 McCarthy Becker* The other guy was a charlatan
OH-1 Driehaus Chabot* A decent table wine
OH-10 Kucinich Corrigan* Too bad about the heroin Billy
OH-12 Tiberi* Brooks A river
OH-13 Sutton* Ganley Ganley sounds ungainly
OH-15 Kilroy* Stivers He is always there
OH-16 Boccieri* Renacci Maker of bocce balls
OH-18 Space* Gibbs Spacely Sprockets
OH-6 Wilson* Johnson Great balls
OH-9 Kaptur Iott* Iott could be idiot, but the other one is too much like captor/jailer
OK-2 Boren Thompson* Thompson is a boring name, but not so much as Boren
OR-1 Wu* Cornilles Always go for the Wu
OR-4 DeFazio Robinson* Mrs. Robinson and Jack Robinson
OR-5 Bruun Schrader* Sounds like a shredder–not in terms of ruining documents, but in terms of tearing up the course
PA-10 Carney* Marino Art from the Honeymooners
PA-11 Kanjorski* Barletta Sounds like a can-do perso
PA-12 Critz Burns* Critz sounds broken–yeah, the microwave is on the critz
PA-13 Schwartz Adcock* Beevis and Butthead would like this name
PA-15 Dent Callahan* Do you feel lucky, punk?
PA-17 Holden* Argall Catcher in the Rye
PA-3 Dahlkemper* Kelly Less common of a name
PA-4 Altmire* Rothfus Solid like old mud
PA-6 Gerlach Trivedi* Sounds like a greaser from the 1950’s–friend to Fonzi
PA-7 Meehan* Lentz Just partial to M words
PA-8 Murphy* Fitzpatrick He’s the law
RI-1 Loughlin Cicilline* A hill in Rome where the villas are
RI-2 Zaccaria Langevin* Sounds more elegant
SC-5 Spratt* Mulvaney Will eat no fat
SD-L Noem* Herseth Sandlin To Noem is to love em
TN-4 Davis DesJarlais* Sounds like a light lunch wine
TN-5 Cooper* Hall Alice Cooper edges out Hall & Oates
TN-6 Carter Black* No one wants another Jimmy Carter
TN-8 Fincher Herron* Both are birds–finches are nice, but herons are amazing
TX-15 Hinjosa Zamora* Hinjosa sounds like a sneeze
TX-25 Doggett* Campbell Dogs are better than soup
TX-27 Ortiz* Farenthold Farenthold sounds like Parenthold, like being grounded
TX-17 Edwards Flores* Less boring–John Edwards is the association and not a positive one
TX-23 Rodriguez* Canseco Strong baseball bias for this name
UT-2 Matheson Philpot* Philpot seems more serious
VA-11 Connolly* Fimian Other one sounds like Simian; sounds close minded
VA-2 Nye* Rigell Just sounds nice
VA-5 Perriello* Hurt Please don’t hurt me
VA-9 Griffith Boucher* The hero of the movie “Water Boy”
VT-L Beaudry* Welch Sounds like a good old boy
WA-2 Koster* Larsen Want someone who understands economics and what things cost
WA-3 Heck* Herrera Give them heck
WA-8 DelBene Reichert* Sounds “righter”, but in correct sense, not right-wing sense
WA-9 Muri* Smith Just different
WI-3 Kind Kapanke* Wasn’t Edward Kennedy involved
WI-7 Duffy Lassa* Lasso, lassie
WI-8 Kagen Ribble* Like ripple; cute
WV-1 Olivero* McKinley Olives
WV-3 Rahall Maynard* Just like this sound; sorta funny, sorta rock, sorta respectable
WY-L Wendt* Lummis Lummis sounds like a dreaded high school principal

US Senate

Alaska Miller* McAdams Beer!
Arizona McCain Glassman Draw: too well-known a race–naming panel couldn’t get past the politics
Arkansas Boozman* Lincoln Booze is better than beer!
California Boxer Fiorina Draw: too well-known a race–naming panel couldn’t get past the politics
Colorado Buck* Bennet Call of the Wild hero dog
Connecticut Blumenthal McMahon* Johnny Carson’s side kick
Delaware Coons O’Donnell Draw: too well-known a race–naming panel couldn’t get past the politics
Florida Rubio Meek Draw: too well-known a race–naming panel couldn’t get past the politics
Georgia Isakson Thurmond* The K in Isakson is not right to me
Illinois Giannoulias Kirk Draw: too well-known a race–naming panel couldn’t get past the politics
Indiana Coats* Ellsworth Coats are warm; “worth” is too high-fallutin
Iowa Grassley * Conlin Green grass grew all around
Kentucky Paul* Conway Peter, Paul and Mary
Louisiana Vitter* Melancon A tough critter
Maryland Mikulski Wargotz* Sounds like a video game character–The Wargotz against the Zerg
Missouri Blunt Carnahan* If you are too blunt, you are rude
Nevada Angle Reid Draw: too well-known a race–naming panel couldn’t get past the politics
New Hampshire Ayotte Hodes* Could be a Hobbit name
New York Gillibrand DioGuardi Draw: too well-known a race–naming panel couldn’t get past the politics
New York2 Schumer Townsend Draw: too well-known a race–naming panel couldn’t get past the politics
North Carolina Burr* Marshall A historic name; also Raymond Burr
Ohio Portman Fisher* Fish are good
Oregon Wyden* Huffman Will take the wide view of things
Pennsylvania Toomey* Sestak Could be from Toontown
Washington Murray Rossi* With Martini
West Virginia Manchin* Raese That “ae” thing throws me
Wisconsin Johnson* Feingold It just has that swing