It’s still early days in what will surely feel like a 946-day presidential election cycle. The serious issues of our time are still yet to be broached, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t process stories to write, campaign logos to analyze, and candidate pets to vet. Running for president, after all, is tough: You have to be likeable, yet presidential, while knowing how much milk costs and know how to order a burrito bowl at Chipotle.
One recently developing opportunity to get some buzz, and some likeability points, for brands, as well as politicians, is the 404 error page. The 404 page is a website’s way of saying something has screwed up on your quest to find a given page. In modern digital politicking, even a dead or mistyped link is a chance to chalk up likability street cred, usually with a stab at humor. Humor is like Kryptonite to most politicians, so it’s not without risks.
The early results from the four declared candidates for the White House show Hillary Clinton with an early lead in the 404 primary, which is kind of like a digital Dixville Notch. Who doesn’t like Donald Duck? (It’s an unwritten rule of American politics: You can’t run for president if you don’t like Donald Duck.) It’s a pretty good opening 404 salvo from the Clinton camp, but, in fairness, the competition could do with upping its game a bit.
Marco Rubio, the latest to throw his hat in the presidential ring, is running second despite being new to the field. Rubio throws in a nice football reference and the message is playful enough to get the point across, which is: Hey guys, I like football. Team digital Rubio even went one step further in milking some face time out of the dead end with a video. I’m all for teachable moments, and Rubio telling eight-year-olds they’re going to face adversity in their lives, not unlike the football game they just (presumably) lost, is apparently one the American people can benefit from too.
Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have (so far) opted to abstain from 404 brand building. Paul, as a libertarian, perhaps doesn’t want to meddle in your personal life as a web browser, though he does give you some subtle search guidance.
Ted Cruz does not appear to believe in errors or 404 pages and redirects you back to the main page, for the most part.
While Barack Obama obviously isn’t on the ballot, as a pioneer of modern Internet campaigning, and purveyor of one of the Internet’s great political disasters with the, shall we say, rocky rollout of HealthCare.gov, Obama still is holding tight to the crown of most Internet-savvy political operation with this cheeky little 404 page: