What Does Ted Cruz’s Flame Represent? A Universal Politic? | Imagery in Politics

With a crowded Republican field, how do candidates for President distinguish themselves as they head into the Southern primaries? One way is through branding. Candidates use logos to distinguish themselves from their competitors. The democrat field is not so crowded, therefore, less scrutiny may be placed on campaign branding materials of Clinton and Sanders, the front-runners. But for the republican candidates, scrutiny may be fierce. Maybe this is why the branding materials of the republican candidates seem to, at times, overpower the respective messengers.

Case in point: Candidate Ted Cruz.

Sen. Ted Cruz

Did anybody else notice the similarities between Sen. Cruz’s backdrop on his stump speeches and that of the famous inspirational TED Talks? The slogan “TRUSTED” with TED in the classic red provides a visual context for the Senator as audiences watch him speak. Depending on where he stands, though, the message conveyed to audiences can be the difference between “RUSTED,” “USTED,” “TED,” and “ED”. This risky design causes too much speculation. Once could easily be distracted with, “Hey, that looks like the TED Talks logo! Can they do that?” This cognitive interference may distract from the message Sen. Cruz tries to convey.

Here is another challenge. Add to the TED Talks-like design of the “TRUSTED” backdrop the red, white, and blue flame, that also resembles the red-and-white flame logo of Claremont Graduate University, and one really begins to wonder who designed these campaign materials for Sen. Cruz and who is the intended audience for these materials?

Not every registered voter is familiar with TED Talks, or the Southern California-based Claremont University Consortium (CUC), a group of small colleges and two graduate schools (of which CGU is one). It is important to note that CUC is next door to Claremont Lincoln University and the Claremont Institute, neither a part of the CUC, but certainly at home with the name Claremont and what Claremont represents. When people search for these names, inevitably they find the flame. That other institutions feel at home borrowing the message of intellectualism and universal tolerance for the Other may bode well for the Cruz campaign, in the long run.


By borrowing heavily from both the TED Talks and Claremont Graduate University logos, is the Cruz campaign signalling a desire to appeal to an audience beyond the evangelical base the media typically associates with Cruz? If so, what audience?