Hillary Clinton, more specifically the Hillary Clinton brand.
The Hillary Clinton campaign is the focus of this blog. For the next few weeks, I will be taking a brand critique of all the main candidates for the presidency. Today, I am starting with Hillary Clinton but it won’t end there. Future blogs will feature Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich.
I don’t want or welcome any vitriolic partisan comments on any of the candidates. Save your biased comments for political rags. The purpose of this series is to take a fair and unbiased look at the candidate’s campaigns and brands, not to support of bombastically comment on their fitness for the office. If you can’t read these sorts of comments without ridicule and venom, please stop here and look for a different venue.
Stealing Share is a brand strategy company. Our specialty is in finding ways to influence human behavior. As out name suggests, our expertise is in finding ways for brands to steal market share from competitors. We apply this skill set to many of the brands you know. Everything from the beer you prefer to the trucks that deliver your goods to retail outlets. With that in mind, let’s look at the mistakes currently being made by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Brands should always start with a no-holds barred assessment of their brand. They should put all the sacred cows on the table and make plans to slaughter all of them. They need to look at the target audience and make attempts to understand the belief systems that motivate them. They need to look at the competitive set and strive to differentiate themselves from that group by positioning themselves as both different and better.
They should seek to understand the main power in their brands and focus with absolute resolution on that equity. The friend of all brands and the greatest predictor of success can be found in the SINGLE most emotionally intensive value that they can claim. Singularity of message is the hardest skill learned by consumer brands.
Looks as if that is also true of politics.
The answer to the question “Who is she and what does she stand for?” is the great predictor of political success. What the prospective voter parrots back must be universally understood and emotionally intensive.
Hillary Clinton was the presumptive Democratic candidate before the primaries.
The success of Bernie Sanders in the primaries to date is a surprise to almost every political pundit. The assumption that Hillary Clinton had this all sewn up limited the field of contenders.
I’m sure that there are many presidential hopefuls wishing they had thought differently about the possibilities last year. This speaks directly to what Hillary Clinton and her campaign has been doing wrong. In a normal branding process, I would test my assertions with projectable market research. Without that projectable research, these represent my experience as a brand strategist.
What should be Hillary Clinton’s main equity?
I can tell you in one word— CLINTON. Despite all the troublesome issues that Bill, in many cases, brought upon himself, Bill Clinton is still beloved by many. Many of my staunchest Republican friends have confided in me as a brand strategist that they voted for Bill. “I can’t quite tell you why I voted for him but I liked him. Oh sure, he was a bit of a scoundrel but he was MY scoundrel,” they often tell me.
Hillary should not run away from the name. If her success came down to just keeping defectors from abandoning her, the CLINTON brand might be enough. Ask people to vote against CLINTON (not Hillary) and the brand itself gives her a bit of an edge. Instead of really embracing the CLINTON brand, Hillary Clinton is embracing her first name.
Almost everything she does is on a first name basis. Her campaign signs, for the most part, say HILLARY. As a brand guy, I can’t believe any strategist is giving her this advice. It is akin to telling Coca-Cola to drop Coca from their cans and simply call it COLA. The upside of the CLINTON brand more than makes up for its deficits. But there is more wrong with this than just focusing on the familiar (in a brand way) of HILLARY and downplaying CLINTON. If elected or even nominated, Hillary Clinton would be the first female candidate in both scores.
Hillary Clinton needs to be seen as an equal
Let’s throw out political correctness here and go to the heart of the matter. The US population loves stereotypes and has deep seated prejudices (more about this when we examine some of the other candidates later). As a female candidate, Hillary Clinton needs everyone who votes for her and those not currently convinced to see her as a powerful President.
They would like to think she is as serious as any male candidate who ever ran for that office. By embracing the familiar nomenclature of being on a first name basis, she is demonstrating the exact WRONG message. Females get higher marks for many human emotional traits and are often overlooked because of glass ceilings in corporate America. Hillary Clinton should never use her first name unless it is accompanied by both Hillary AND Clinton.
In last night’s debate, Hillary told the audience that she is not a natural politician like Bill was. Very true. For that reason, she should avoid all the shrillness of her campaign speeches. A rising timbre at the close of statements seems unnatural for her brand and sounds shrill and phony.
Hillary Clinton, like all CLINTONS, cannot risk being seen as phony. (The politically correct terminology is disingenuous. I just don’t have time for such correctness. I believe candor saves everyone a lot of time). Hillary Clinton should engage in straight talking conversations with the voting prospects. She is much better at this. Seem sincere and thoughtful. Canned speeches with built in timbre designed to illicit cheers and speak over canned applause sell exactly the wrong message. Smart, thoughtful and measured responses would be a meaningful differentiator. If she is not the natural politician, then she should speak to that strength, not OVER it.
In the next brand view on politics, I will look at the Trump campaign brand.