Brands in the News

Branding Advice for Hillary Clinton

1 Jun , 2016  

Last week, I provided some branding advice for Donald Trump. This week, I have some advice for Hillary Clinton.

At this point, Hillary certainly needs some assistance. Bernie Sanders continues to do well in the primaries, and Hillary’s all but certain nomination now seems in question. With Trump gaining in the polls, some people are suggesting that it is time to consider a different option entirely, such as Joe Biden.

Hillary’s problem is that everyone knows her but many people, including some of her supporters, aren’t particularly excited about her candidacy. Changing perceptions of a well-established brand is a huge challenge. Her greatest strength—awareness—is her greatest issue.

To turn things around, I suggest that Hillary should do four things:

Take Trump Seriously

The most important thing is to understand that Donald Trump is a serious threat. He is a savvy candidate who knows how to thrive in the new world of media. One of the quickest ways to get into trouble is to assume that your competitor is an idiot. This is rarely the case. If someone seems like a goof, there is a good chance you simply don’t understand them.

Great brands stumble when they minimize competitive threats. Motorola wasn’t too concerned about Nokia, and Nokia wasn’t worried about Apple. Blockbuster didn’t think that Red Box or Netflix were major issues. Yoplait and Dannon viewed Chobani as a niche product with limited appeal.

Hillary should be particularly careful with market research studies. Remember that studies reflect the world as it exists today. They don’t show the future. Yoplait apparently tested the Chobani product and it did poorly.

Don’t Focus On Issues

Hillary shouldn’t focus on specific policy points. This advice runs against some conventional election thinking, but this year issues will play a secondary role to character. This is partly because it is difficult to pin Donald Trump down on any issues. Many of his proposals are undeveloped, and he changes his mind frequently. What does he want to do, anyway? Because this election will feature big personalities, the choice is shaping up to be between individuals.

Rebrand Trump

Rebranding Trump has to be a top priority. As I wrote last week, Trump is going to try to shift to the center. He will try to retain core elements of his brand while softening some of the more polarizing pieces. Clinton has to block this shift and push Trump back to the fringe.

A good repositioning needs to be grounded in a truth. It’s difficult to change what people think completely; it’s easier to tap into an existing belief. Trying to convince people that Donald Trump isn’t a successful businessman won’t work—people generally believe that he is one, and Donald is able to argue that his apparent failures were actually great successes. Perhaps using “Crazy Donald” would do the trick and make people think about the choice before the cast their vote. Sticking with one phrase is essential. Rebranding takes time and repetition.

Own the Bernie Platform

Bernie Sanders has tapped into concern about the growing wealth inequality in our country. As the rich get richer, the gap between rich and poor is growing. This dynamic creates a number of problems, and Bernie has won much support by addressing them.

The wealth gap is an issue with broad appeal. True wealth isn’t the 1%—it is actually the .1%, or the .01%. This means that 99.99% of people fall into the not-so-wealthy group.

One potential problem is that Hillary is not the perfect candidate to embrace the wealth gap issue. She is rather prosperous and has worked with the likes of Goldman Sachs. Still, Hillary isn’t as wealthy as Trump, as least not in the public mind. More important, Hillary can argue that she understands the wealthy and why the income gap is such a danger. She can claim that she will reduce the wealth gap, while Donald Trump will expand it.

If Hillary can get people to believe that she will create a more unified and prosperous country by shrinking the wealth gap, and that Donald Trump is fundamentally crazy, then she has a shot at winning in November.



One Response

  1. Kathy Kraas says:

    Tim,
    You should find a way for the Clinton camp to read your blog. They are stumbling to find a strategy, which makes no sense at all with all of the smart people that are supporting her. Chuck Schumer understands this better than anyone else. He recommended hiring someone on the campaign team that will be focused solely on Trump. Tim Calkins, the next David Axelrod! I’d go for that.

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