DA: We didn't copy Obama

Cape Town - The Democratic Alliance re-launched itself as a "party of government" at the weekend, but you might be forgiven for thinking you've seen this all before.

Some say the DA's new logo bears a striking resemblance to a logo we've seen a lot of in the last two years: Barack Obama's election campaign logo.

But is this a case of political plagiarism?

"No," insists DA strategist and CEO Ryan Coetzee. "There was no conscious copying of the Obama logo.

"What is interesting though is that what we're tying to do with our new approach is to draw on the things that Obama did in his campaign, specifically to lessen racial divisions"

Rising sun

The DA's new logo depicts the sun with a blue background rising over rainbow-coloured ribbons. Barack Obama's logo also depicts a sun - without rays - with a blue background rising over red and white ribbons. Red and blue are the party colours of both the Republican and Democrat parties.

Obama's logo is the product of Chicago-based branding firm Sender. Owner Sol Sender told Salon.com the logo was a symbol of "hope".

"Sender's team came up with a white sunrise against a blue sky, over a landscape implied by red and white stripes. It also recalls the Japanese rising sun," writes Salon.com.

According to a study on DesignBay.com, which looked at the logos of successful American political campaigns, Obama's logo "scores a perfect 10 out of 10 for symbolism", and the use of horizontal stripes worked strongly in its favour.

"It is possible that Obama's logo gave his marketing the edge in his tightly fought victory in the Democratic Primary," says the study.

Good ideas

For Coetzee, the message behind the logo is clear and simple.

"The sun represents our optimism - our positive outlook for what South Africa could be," says Coetzee.

"It's about having a sense of optimism about things.

"The second element is the symbolism of the rainbow, which symbolises the diversity of South African people. It's one diverse nation united, working together for one future," adds Coetzee.

The old DA logo - in blue and yellow - also featured a rising sun element.

The DA certainly paid attention to Obama's campaign - ten days after the US elections, it published an article on the its website called "Lessons from Obama".

"Obama's win did not symbolise the victory of any racial group. It was a triumph of a society which strives to ensure that all citizens have the opportunities they need to take responsibility for their lives, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth, and become the best they can be. This is the vision that animates the DA," it reads.

"The re-launch of the DA at Constitution Hill reflects our belief that this is possible. Everything that we do from tomorrow onwards will be geared towards building the non-racial centre of South African politics and consolidating our democracy. The lessons of Obama's success have great relevance for this exciting new phase of South Africa's political history."

So there is certainly something to be gained from studying the Obama campaign.

"From a campaign technique point of view, we look clinically at all campaigns around the world - including Obama's, which was very successful," adds Coetzee.

"But from a message point of view - that's just ours. We have our own core vision for SA and that's unique.

"Good ideas are good ideas."

Long process

Coetzee is mum on how much the process to rebrand the DA cost, but the thinking began immediately after the 2006 elections.

"It became clear coalition governments were the future, and that the ANC could lose support and possibly split, so we wanted to be ready."

Coetzee added the whole task of rebranding the DA and designing a new logo took over a year, with the bulk of the research taking place towards the end of 2007.

"We worked with an agency on the design side. I can't tell you how many logos we looked at. On this logo design alone there were about 15 variations. But in the end, this is the one we went with."

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