The Obama Brand: Q&A With Irma Zandl

Trend analyst Irma Zandl, president of Zandl Group, polled 300 of its online panel of progressive tastemakers about the election.

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Newsweek’s Nov. 24 issue

Photo By Courtesy Photo

In the wilds of (almost) post-industrial Bushwick, Brooklyn, camera crews shooting The CW’s “Gossip Girl” and Bravo’s “Make Me a Supermodel” work in an area with scrapped cars in razor-wired lots and rub elbows with patrons of a health food store and a former East Village cafe. Nestled in between is the new loft space of the trend analyst Zandl Group, which has relocated after 20 years in SoHo.

Finding itself “impressed” by how “in synch” President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign messaging was with young voters, Zandl Group analyzed the effort and polled 300 of its online panel of progressive tastemakers about it. The conclusion? “Lessons for marketers on how to best reach today’s young consumer” can be gleaned from the campaign.

Irma Zandl, the firm’s president, wouldn’t be surprised to see “a more dressed up, pulled together look for guys” that’s “less slovenly,” inspired by a 44th president who’s fit and wears clothes well. She tosses a curveball in predicting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will have more influence on fashion than the next first lady, Michelle Obama. Palin “has this attractive quality — the way she wears her clothes, her glasses, the pencil skirts, the heels,” Zandl said. “That look is appealing to a lot of women.”

Could a second career for Alaska’s governor lie ahead? “She should have a talk show,” Zandl said from her perch across the street from Bushwick’s Nut Roaster Studios.

Here, the trend analyst also waxes prophetic about smart brands such as Apple and Target; Wal-Mart’s ad slogan, generation identities and the economic crisis.

WWD: Have you been surprised the media has gone to town about all aspects of Barack Obama’s influence on popular culture?
Irma Zandl: No, because he’s such a charismatic person and so eloquent and articulate. It’s also interesting we’ve got Obama at the same time we’ve got Palin, and she’s getting as much press and is equally charismatic, if not very articulate. She should not be in politics, dare I say, but I could see her being the next Kelly Ripa [co-host of ABC’s “Live With Regis and Kelly”].

WWD: If you were to bottle the appeal of Obama and Palin….
I.Z.: His appeal is intellectual and smart. Her appeal is total candy. She’s like junk food.

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