Obama a BMW, McCain a Ford

NEW YORK Politics are a complicated subject. To simplify the way consumers really feel about the presidential candidates, Landor Associates and research firm Penn, Schoen & Berland asked survey respondents to compare them to brands.

The results were telling. While Democratic nominee Barack Obama was compared to Google, his Republican competitor John McCain was likened to AOL. Obama was also associated with BMW and Target, while McCain was linked with Ford and Wal-Mart.

The 2008 Presidential ImagePower survey, released today, polled a cross-section of 1,002 registered voters between Oct. 1-6.

When asked what fictional spy they would compare the candidates to, Obama was likened to James Bond, while McCain was compared to Jack Bauer.

The most telling findings show that despite their policy differences, the two candidates have a lot of similarities from a branding perspective, Scott Siff, evp at Penn, Schoen & Berland, said in a statement.

“Three of the key brands that McCain and Obama are both associated with — Starbucks, iPod and MySpace — won their reputation as game-changers in their respective categories by allowing people to achieve individuality in a comfortable format,” Siff said. “This similarity in the candidates’ brand strategies also indicates that whichever candidate best achieves the positioning they are both trying to claim may well be the winner on November 4.”

Obama and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin were perceived similarly in seven out of 15 survey categories. Obama and Palin were both compared to Google and People magazine, as they are personable and considered youthful.

McCain and Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden were even more similar. Respondents linked them in 12 out of 15 categories, including AOL and BusinessWeek, two respected brands with a long heritage.