How she lost control of the Hillary brand and never got it back.
Throughout the 2017 Presidential Election, Democrats believed they had the momentum to take their candidate to the White House. The recent inauguration of the 45th President proves they failed to build a movement powerful enough to stop Trump. What went wrong with the Hillary brand? The Republican triumph is the result of poorly executed branding by Clinton’s Campaign. Although Hillary sought to be the symbol of unity, she was never able to shake the “Crooked Hillary” brand that was created long before the election.
Women’s March: Reclaiming the brand.
This past weekend, millions of women marched in protest of the Trump inauguration. The movement went global as women from diverse backgrounds joined in to the Trump White House.
The Women’s March reclaimed the adverse narrative that Hillary could not recover from. The poem given by actress Ashley Judd said it best, “I am a nasty woman”, but not as nasty as the words or actions of Donald Trump. If Hillary had used a similar approach and taken ownership of her flaws and compared them with Trump, we may have seen a very different inauguration.
Hillary’s Loss: A branding fail?
There is no doubt that Trump’s expertise in branding in 140 characters or less earned him an advantage. From “Lyin Ted” to “Little Marco,” Trumps ability to belittle his opponents with adverse labels has proven to work in his favor. Yet, the controversy surrounding the label given to “Crooked Hillary” Clinton sparked heated debates throughout the election. The outrage over calling her a “Nasty Woman” did not give her the support she needed to rally behind her. Clinton remained one of the most unlikable candidates in U.S. history. Did she lose the presidency because she tried to be the “most likable”?
While both candidates exhausted every defense against their allegations, Hillary was never able to take control of her brand image. What would have happened if Clinton had taken a different approach? Instead of competing to be the most likable, she would have been better off taking ownership of the Hillary Brand as defined by her opponents. Like many brands, the perception is the reality and as Politifact has reported, the reality is not factual. By taking ownership early on, Hillary could have connected better with voters who had a visceral and emotional reaction to her negative brand image. In this way she could have validated their perceptions and connected with them on an emotional level by – in a way – baring her soul.
This approach, Hillary trying to be “likable” backfired epically with Latinos when her team tried to label her as “your abuela” in a post titled “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela”. The twitterverse responded appropriately with a #NotMyAbuela hashtag. Which should have been the Hillary teams’ approach in the first place. But she didn’t need to crowdsource her strategy, she had many smart Latino strategists working with her. The bottom line is, she didn’t need to be like your abuela (likable) because she is a “nasty woman” (unlikable) who fights for things your abuela cares about.
As marketers, we have to ask ourselves:
- What would have happened if Clinton had taken a different approach?
- Did she lose the presidency because she tried to be the “most likable”?
- How can we own the narrative?
- How can we use the ugly truth?
It’s important for marketers to consider the implications of existing “dirt” tarnishing a brand and the consequences of ignoring it.