What Can Politicians Teach Us about Branding?

Trump – Clinton, household words to most of us. That’s the essence of a good brand. We may love it or hate it, but simply hearing it conjours up a picture as clear as Coke or Mercedes Benz.

The secret lies in differentiation from the competition with a consistent image and set of messages.

Considering Trump’s and Clinton’s successes in the primary season. These presumptive nominees for the 2016 presidential election are experts at branding. To learn how to build, strengthen, or spread the word about your brand, take a look at some of the candidates’ strategies below.

1. Say something new (or say it in a new way)

In marketing, nonconformity matters. Political opinions aside, Donald Trump is the ultimate nonconformist. From his approach to immigration policy to the casual way he speaks in debates, the novelty of his ideas and how he communicates them is undeniable. Being unconventional is a key pillar of the Trump political brand.

Trump's supporters respect his ability to communicate bold, atypical solutions to issues they feel must be addressed in the upcoming presidential term. Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan notes in a feature on a conservative VA town, “many of [Trump’s] supporters don’t take the idea [to ban Muslims from the U.S.] literally. They hear it as a rhetorical nod that he will change things.”

Perhaps it is impossible to say something new, but even if Trump isn’t saying anything “new,” he is most definitely saying it in a new way. This bold approach has convinced many voters that, at the very least, Trump will offer them something outside the norm. And in the world of branding, that makes all the difference.

2. Target a specific audience, but don’t be exclusive

A good brand knows to target the right audience, but also works not to alienate those outside that group. For example, Hillary Clinton has spent her career in the male-dominated world of politics and cares deeply about helping women break through the “glass ceiling.” In a Twitter post, she dedicated her recent victory in securing the Democratic presidential nomination to young girls: “To every little girl who dreams big: Yes, you can be anything you want—even president. Tonight is for you.”

Clinton is committed to policies that will help women, like “equal pay, paid sick days, and affordable childcare,” engendering the support of many females. But she takes care to demonstrate that “women’s issues” extend beyond the individual. Clinton said in 2015 that “too often, these are called women’s issues” when really “I firmly believe what’s good for women is good for America…”

Clinton emphasizes in word and deed the importance of women’s rights. But she also avoids isolating that target audience and falling into the trap of making it her only intended audience—an important lesson to remember when addressing a target population for your brand.

3. Stay relevant with social media

There’s no more effective way to spread your brand message than through social media. Facebook and Twitter allow political candidates to communicate viewpoints and event information, rallying support from the online community.

But it isn’t enough simply to create social media profiles; that’s only the first step of online brand management. Be sure to take advantage of features like hashtags to spread your content, as political candidates do. On Twitter, Donald Trump hashtagged his campaign slogan, #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, and the Bernie Sanders campaign did the same with #NotMeUs.

Wit and relevance play a role in a hashtag’s effectiveness: #FeelTheBern became “the de facto slogan for the Bernie Sanders campaign” according to Time writer Samantha Grossman. The hashtag, a play on “feel the burn,” a popular workout-inspiring adage in the fitness world, is catchy and clever (who doesn’t love a good pun?). Its brevity makes it easy to remember and use in a tweet or Facebook post.

Following these candidates’ examples and using social media allows you to communicate your brand message in a fast, easy manner and reach the largest, most diverse audience possible.

Creating and communicating a brand for your company isn’t easy. But perhaps, with the help of the tips above, the road to victory over the “candidates” in your own field will be a little bit smoother.

The essence of a memorable brand is the story you tell. SunStar Strategic has helped hundreds of companies uncover their unique value proposition and craft the messages to tell it.


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