Gregg campaign could live and die by the 'stache

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Democrats are hoping to bring an iconic mustache to the governor's office next year.

Democrat John Gregg has made his handlebar mustache a centerpiece of his run for governor, using it in his stump speech and telling allegories of how he was urged to shave it off, but instead stuck to his Yosemite-Sam guns.

His campaign has taken to stamping most of its material with a large, blue mustache. Aides give out mustache pins to supporters, and the mustache takes up the bottom third of the official campaign logo. The mustache even pops up on his campaign website's favicon — that's the little marker just to the left of the browser bar at the top of the page.

Scott Johnson, president of Dean Johnson Design in Indianapolis, said the one word that pops into his head when he sees the blue mustache is "friendly."

"Just seems a little more lighthearted — ‘friendly' came to mind — as opposed to these other races I think of as being more hard-hitting," he said. The entire Gregg logo actually resembles a face somewhat, he said, with the stars at the top forming a brow, the "Gregg."

Campaign branding is nothing new. The gold standard is the Obama campaign, Johnson said. The open "O" and the rolling fields created by the stripes reinforced a message of "hope," he said. The Obama team looks to be sticking with the "O" for 2012.

Gregg isn't the only candidate in the race trading on a bushy brand. Former "Survivor" star Rupert Boneham, who's running as a Libertarian, is keeping his trademark, mountain-man beard for the race, even if he's hung up the tie-dye T-shirts for some official campaign business clothes.

The two stand in contrast to the pair of polished Republicans duking it out, Rep. Mike Pence and Fishers businessman Jim Wallace.

Gregg campaign manager Rebecca Pearcey said the Gregg team picked the mustache from a handful of designs laid out by the designers at the Indianapolis-based Sonar Studios.

"We wanted a more vintage, old-school look," Pearcey said. "The mustache is so different that we decided to go with it."

Debra Jenkins, 52 of Indianapolis, and Gary Pierson, 57 of Indianapolis, showed up at Gregg's Indianapolis campaign kickoff earlier this month wearing glue-on mustaches they had gotten at a Gregg fundraiser a few days earlier.

"I think it shows you can be a leader and still have fun and set yourself apart from others," Jenkins said.

It also makes for an easy target. Conservative bloggers have started calling Gregg the "Pringles Man" — a nod to the chip-pushing mascot which sports a similarly old-school mustache. It also points to a darker side of the logo, the possibility to get pigeonholed and caricatured.

It's up to Gregg to make sure that doesn't happen.

Johnson notes that a logo is only one half of branding. The other half comes from the message and whether it backs up the tone set by the logo.


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