Tag Archives: Hillary Clinton

A Tale of Two Brands

One week after Donald Trump’s stunning win in the presidential election, the debate is still going on, as to how he was able to pull off his stunning election victory. One reason that is being overlooked and should be studied by business communicators and CEOs is that Trump regardless of if you love him or hate him was consistent with his brand identity.  In every election since Franklin Roosevelt’s re-election in 1936, the candidate who came across as being more authentic with his brand identity won the election.  This election was no exception.

A brand needs to tell a story.  That story needs to be consistent and reflect the brands values and beliefs.  It is what consumers and voters buy into and will allow a brand to develop a loyalty that will allow it to survive in hard times and flourish in good times.

Donald Trump over the years has built a brand identity based upon being brash, abrasive, in your face, decisive, and one who never backs down.  This identity has been built upon countless interviews, books, product lines, and of course Celebrity Apprentice.  It is why Americans felt that they knew him, the moment he announced his candidacy, while other candidates like Scott Walker, John Kasich, and even Ted Cruz were struggling to introduce themselves to the American public.  This familiarity with the Trump brand is why he was able to survive incidents that would have taken down another candidate (insulting John McCain, the Megyn Kelly episode, the Access Hollywood tape).  Millions of voters just saw these events as Trump being Trump and were neither shocked nor angered.  They saw it as Trump being consistent with his brand.

Contrast this with Hillary Clinton.  Voters were never sure what her brand identity was.  She introduced more new Hillarys during the campaign, then Richard Nixon had new Nixons in his entire career.  First she was the mother and grandmother breaking the glass ceiling.  Next she was the most experienced candidate to ever seek the White House.  After that, she was the progressive Hillary in the mode of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.  This shifted over time to the consensus candidate who would unite America.  Yet at the end voters were uncertain if she was any of these brands.

But it just isn’t in politics that we see this.  Recall the Duck Dynasty scandal several years ago when Phil Robertson made homophobic and racist remarks.  He and Duck Dynasty survived and continue to flourish because he was seen as being consistent with the brand.  Yet Paula Deen who was seen for years as a nice grandmotherly person saw her brand crumble when it was revealed she had used the ‘n’ word.  This went against her whole brand identity and she has yet to this day to recover.

The lesson that Trump and others serve is that by being consistent with a brand identity forged over the year will allow a brand to weather the worse of scandals and allow for even greater success.  Having no brand identity or going against an established brand identity is a recipe for disaster.

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Rebranding @HillaryClinton

The wait is over. Hillary Clinton announced via YouTube and Twitter what everyone already knew. She is running for president. Her candidacy presents both opportunity and challenges from a public relations and branding perspective.

Hillary Clinton launched her campaign with a rebranding effort. Taking a page out of Richard Nixon’s playbook, she is introducing the ‘new Hillary’ (just as every election cycle there was a new Nixon, who always seemed to return to the old Nixon). The previous brands of ‘ new Hillary’ have included:

  1. Bill Clinton’s partner in the White House who had more influence than Vice President Al Gore.
  2. The wronged wife.
  3. New York’s Senator who worked across the aisle to get things done.
  4. The candidate who would break the glass ceiling in 2008 and become America’s first female president.
  5. America’s chief diplomat above politics, as President Obama’s Secretary of State.

Just as with Richard Nixon, none of these ‘new Hillary’ brands succeeded. The media and the general public didn’t quite buy the new brand and viewed her as the Hillary who polarized Americans during Bill Clinton’s failed health care reform efforts. There was a belief that each rebranding effort was just an attempt to get Americans to forget the old Hillary.

Now with the launch of her campaign, the new Hillary brand is that of the loving grandmother. This is the latest attempt to soften Hillary’s image and allow her to connect with voters.

To be successful, rebranding must be fully transparent, sincere, and authentic. At this point of Hillary’s rebranding, the public is skeptical. Many in the media and even voters see it as nothing more as a gimmick and expect the old Hillary to remerge.

So what should she do?

The biggest problems with Hillary’s rebranding efforts in the past have been a lack of transparency and when she has encountered difficulty or criticism, she has reverted back to the polarizing Hillary of 1992 – 1994. If she is sincere and wants voters and the media to believe her, she needs to be transparent, fully answer questions, and allow herself to be vulnerable. Beyond that, throughout the campaign, she needs to stay consistent with her new brand and act accordingly.

Her second obstacle that she faces is offering a new vision for America without running away from an increasingly unpopular President Obama. If she can do that, she will succeed where Adlali Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, and John McCain all failed.

Trying to extend a third electoral victory by one political party is rare (excluding succession due to the death of a president). George H.W. Bush was the last presidential candidate to achieve that. Before him, it was Herbert Hoover in 1928. Both Bush and Hoover ran promising to be a third term of the popular incumbents (Reagan and Coolidge) while moving the nation forward. Even Richard Nixon in his failed 1960 presidential campaign attempted to convince voters that he would be an extension of the popular Dwight Eisenhower with a youthful vigor.

Hillary Clinton if nominated will not have the luxury of a popular president. She will face the challenge that Stevenson faced in 1952 with Harry Truman; Humphrey faced in 1968 with Lyndon Johnson; and John McCain faced in 2008 with George W. Bush. All failed to give a clear vision of how they would be different and each feared to repudiate their president for fear of losing their base. If Hillary distanced herself from President Obama (whose Secretary of State she was) she would alienate her base and bring back stories of the ‘old Hillary’ hurting her rebranding efforts.

So how should she handle this dilemma?

She needs to communicate to voters that she will preserve the Obama policies that are popular and enhance them. But beyond that she needs to outline her vision going forward in clear language. She needs to make clear that while she supports her party’s leader, she hopes to take America a step forward and by her work with the President and her own husband has learned what to do and also what not to do. She must be willing to communicate a big vision that will allow her to expand her base rather then just cater to it.

As the campaign unfolds, it will be interesting to see if the ‘new Hillary’ succeeds or she bombs like New Coke. And even more critical can she communicate a vision without running away from her President.

The wait is over. Hillary Clinton announced via YouTube and Twitter what everyone already knew. She is running for president. Her candidacy presents both opportunity and challenges from a public relations and branding perspective.

Hillary Clinton launched her campaign with a rebranding effort. Taking a page out of Richard Nixon’s playbook, she is introducing the ‘new Hillary’ (just as every election cycle there was a new Nixon, who always seemed to return to the old Nixon). The previous brands of ‘ new Hillary’ have included:

  1. Bill Clinton’s partner in the White House who had more influence than Vice President Al Gore.
  2. The wronged wife.
  3. New York’s Senator who worked across the aisle to get things done.
  4. The candidate who would break the glass ceiling in 2008 and become America’s first female president.
  5. America’s chief diplomat above politics, as President Obama’s Secretary of State.

Just as with Richard Nixon, none of these ‘new Hillary’ brands succeeded. The media and the general public didn’t quite buy the new brand and viewed her as the Hillary who polarized Americans during Bill Clinton’s failed health care reform efforts. There was a belief that each rebranding effort was just an attempt to get Americans to forget the old Hillary.

Now with the launch of her campaign, the new Hillary brand is that of the loving grandmother. This is the latest attempt to soften Hillary’s image and allow her to connect with voters.

To be successful, rebranding must be fully transparent, sincere, and authentic. At this point of Hillary’s rebranding, the public is skeptical. Many in the media and even voters see it as nothing more as a gimmick and expect the old Hillary to remerge.

So what should she do?

The biggest problems with Hillary’s rebranding efforts in the past have been a lack of transparency and when she has encountered difficulty or criticism, she has reverted back to the polarizing Hillary of 1992 – 1994. If she is sincere and wants voters and the media to believe her, she needs to be transparent, fully answer questions, and allow herself to be vulnerable. Beyond that, throughout the campaign, she needs to stay consistent with her new brand and act accordingly.

Her second obstacle that she faces is offering a new vision for America without running away from an increasingly unpopular President Obama. If she can do that, she will succeed where Adlali Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, and John McCain all failed.

Trying to extend a third electoral victory by one political party is rare (excluding succession due to the death of a president). George H.W. Bush was the last presidential candidate to achieve that. Before him, it was Herbert Hoover in 1928. Both Bush and Hoover ran promising to be a third term of the popular incumbents (Reagan and Coolidge) while moving the nation forward. Even Richard Nixon in his failed 1960 presidential campaign attempted to convince voters that he would be an extension of the popular Dwight Eisenhower with a youthful vigor.

Hillary Clinton if nominated will not have the luxury of a popular president. She will face the challenge that Stevenson faced in 1952 with Harry Truman; Humphrey faced in 1968 with Lyndon Johnson; and John McCain faced in 2008 with George W. Bush. All failed to give a clear vision of how they would be different and each feared to repudiate their president for fear of losing their base. If Hillary distanced herself from President Obama (whose Secretary of State she was) she would alienate her base and bring back stories of the ‘old Hillary’ hurting her rebranding efforts.

So how should she handle this dilemma?

She needs to communicate to voters that she will preserve the Obama policies that are popular and enhance them. But beyond that she needs to outline her vision going forward in clear language. She needs to make clear that while she supports her party’s leader, she hopes to take America a step forward and by her work with the President and her own husband has learned what to do and also what not to do. She must be willing to communicate a big vision that will allow her to expand her base rather then just cater to it.

As the campaign unfolds, it will be interesting to see if the ‘new Hillary’ succeeds or she bombs like New Coke. And even more critical can she communicate a vision without running away from her President.