Political candidates are — like it or not — just like beer, soda, snacks and cars – they have a brand, and authentic storytelling is a critical part of the go-to-market strategy that is required for that brand. Recognizing this, the Clinton Campaign team has been enhanced by experts from consumer and corporate branding and marketing, according to this interesting article in the Washington Post. As Secretary Clinton prepares for her expected 2016 campaign, the article says she has tapped two corporate brand strategy experts: “Wendy Clark, who specializes in marketing age-old brands such as Coca-Cola to younger and more diverse customers; and Roy Spence, a decades-long Clinton friend who dreamed up the “Don’t Mess With Texas” anti-littering slogan as well as flashy ad campaigns for Southwest Airlines and Wal-Mart.”
Given Secretary Clinton’s vast name recognition and several decades of being in the public eye in different capacities, the comparison to very well known consumer products is a good one. She, and her brand, are obviously widely known and elicit very specific responses. She is either loved or despised for her past service, her family and political connections, and her actions from First Lady to Senator to Secretary of State. That is much closer to the way the Budweiser brand dominates the beer market using sheer muscle and reach, and completely different from how micro-brews market their brands to smaller, more homogenous, but incredibly devoted, fans of their single, more narrowly focused and targeted brand.
While the Clinton Campaign experts are skilled in making emotional connections between inanimate products and real people, a brand strategy is not an exercise in whitewashing or optical illusions around what a brand is or isn’t. A brand position must be authentic and tied to the actual experience that voters have, or had, with Secretary Clinton, Senator Clinton and First Lady Clinton. Otherwise, a “marketing” campaign tied to attributes that are outside that experience will backfire. Budweiser will never be an artisanal beer. It’s just going to be Budweiser. And you will like it or you will not. Authenticity about what you (product or person) are, or are not, always prevails. The new brand team undoubtedly knows this truth of brand storytelling from their career experiences, and they know this is the mountain they must climb with Secretary Clinton’s brand.
It’s a fascinating process to watch a successful politician transform and “refine” their policy positions to keep current with voter issues and polls, just as we can see this play out with consumer brands trying to transform themselves into something they are not. McDonald’s, for example, has tried to evolve in multiple ways with years of adding trend-inspired menu items that have only confused their loyal fan base, and now faces tremendous challenges in trying to regroup and redefine what their core value and brand really represents. The essence of a brand — why you do what you do — doesn’t waver. And the same holds true for “political brands”.
Brands can evolve and modernize. But the only way to really get it right – be your product a car, a consultancy, a soap or a politician — is to build on those values which are truly authentic to your brand story. And, by the way, you’ve really only got seconds to get someone interested in what that story is and willing to engage in the longer, deeper conversation.
This is why we aim to create a six-second story with our clients — a six-second authentic snapshot of what you do and why you do it. Because in our social media-obsessed, over-cluttered and saturated digital lifestyle, if the brand — your story — doesn’t engage immediately, then you simply never get a chance to even continue the conversation.
Do you know your own six-second brand story? Is every employee and influencer telling the same story? Is it based on the authenticity of why you do what you do? The Authentic Art of Storytelling is an imperative for every marketing organization looking to move your business to the #TopRight Corner.