Tag Archives: 2016 presidential campaign

The Archetype Branding of Trump and Clinton—The Rebel vs. The Ruler

5 Nov

rebel-ruler-2-002     Since the rise of modern consumerism, political campaigns have tried to market their candidates like soap.  The positioning and branding of a candidate, especially a presidential candidate, in many cases is now performed with the discipline of commercial product launch.  They are the ultimate consumer packaged goods.

     Joel McGinniss in his ground breaking book “The Selling of the President 1968” exposed the marketing strategy of Richard Nixon and how this advisors strategically used advertising and staged television town halls to craft an image of Nixon as a knowledgeable and caring candidate.  Even Nixon lamented, “It’s a shame a man has to use such gimmicks as this to get elected.”

     In 2016, the presidential campaigns have become increasing more strategic in how they market themselves.  Among the most effective of the strategies is the grounding of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in brand archetypes.   Trump is the Outlaw or Rebel, Clinton is the Ruler. 

Figure 1

Figure 1

 

     Archetypes are essentially powerful symbols of meaning that our minds easily recognize.  They originated with the Greeks and Romans who created their Gods based upon powerful myths.   Marketers today still attach many of these metaphorical myths and archetypes to a brand or a product in order to make a psychological connection with the consumer.  They act as heuristics, or shortcuts for the consumer to build an emotional attachment with the brand.  For example, Nike is the Hero archetype, Hallmark is the Lover.  Johnson & Johnson is the Caregiver.  Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson in their book “The Hero and the Outlaw” establish the case for twelve brand archetypes based upon a quadrant of opposing psychological needs.  (Figure 1)

     It’s hard to know if the Rebel archetype was made for Donald Trump, or if Trump was made for the Rebel.  Either way, it fits.  The “rules were meant to be broken” motto of the Rebel is exemplified by one of Trump’s recent Twitter posts.

     For most of Trump’s career he’s been the Magician.   He’s the man who somehow overcomes all odds to create great deals and build great real estate properties.  In the process he has built for himself power and wealth.  For a while Trump re-branded himself as the Sage.   As the star of the NBC television show “The Apprentice,” Trump dispensed his business knowledge to would-be students and potential employees.  But with his presidential campaign, he morphed again into the Rebel.   So far he’s effectively and brilliantly used his take-no-prisoners and break-all-the-rules branding strategy to overcome every opponent that’s crossed his path—including the Republican establishment.

Figure 2

Figure 2

 

     Trump’s entire career has shown how he has mastered the art of self-promotion.  And in this latest incarnation he’s created a powerful brand of an irreverent leader who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals. (Figure 2)   With his core value of putting America first, he’s crafted the brand promise of de-rigging this system—his way.  The Rebel or Outlaw archetype is a strong attractor for people who feel left out and left behind by society.   Following or identifying with the Rebel gives a feeling of liberation.   Our culture is filled with Rebel personalities such as Madonna, Niki Minaj, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly.  The archetype is also the core identity of many successful brands such as Harley Davidson, MTV, and Fox Television.

     In many respects Trump has become a California car chase—you know the outcome, but you can’t stop watching.  His unpredictability is a key part of his Rebel brand.  He doesn’t just attack and disrupt Hillary Clinton, but he shocks his audience and the media.  It’s a strategy he deployed in the third presidential debates when he promised to jail Clinton.

     For her part, Hillary Clinton with her experience as First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State brings to her brand expertise, power and control.  She is clearly the Ruler.

     Rulers are motivated by their desire to lead and consolidate power.  This is the archetype of CEO’s, kings, and yes, presidents.   Ronald Reagan, former New York Mayor Rudy Guilliani, and former Ford leader Alan Mulally  were all rulers.  Ruler brands include Goldman Sachs, Cadillac, IBM and The White House.

Figure 3

Figure 3

 

     Clinton’s Ruler archetype mediates directly into her brand promise of experience to lead. (Figure 3)  Her core value may be competence and moral authority, but make no mistake, she also needs control.   That control is also the Ruler’s chief weakness, especially their fear of chaos and preoccupation with their enemies.  In nearly every instance those traits of the Ruler have become Clinton’s chief liabilities in the 2016 presidential campaign.

     So far, her campaign has tried to use the archetype to their electoral advantage.  Even with appealing to voters to “Stand with Hilary” they are inviting them to be the rulers of their own destiny.  By pitting the Ruler against the Rebel, Clinton’s campaign is betting experience will trump recklessness and unpredictability.   The strategy is clearly evident in this recent campaign video.

     The use of branding archetypes is all about strategically positioning an easily identifiable image in the mind of the consumer–in this case the voter.   But with both Trump and Clinton the archetypes also magnify critical flaws with each candidate.   Trump’s unleashed and undisciplined style expose him as a bully and sexist.  Clinton’s Nixon-like desire for command and control, especially in how she’s handled her State Department emails and the Benghazi attacks aftermath have made her simply untrustworthy to a significant portion of the electorate.   Come Election Day we’ll find out whether the dominant brand of each candidate is able to overcome their equally exposed flaws.

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Marco Rubio’s Words That Don’t Work

14 Mar

Trump Rubio Header Pix                        

     The gloves have come off. Except this isn’t a fistfight, it’s more like a middle school food fight. Welcome to the 2016 GOP presidential race.

     It’s an election cycle where virtually every known rule about political campaigns has been run through the shredder—several times. But the sudden shift by Senator Marco Rubio to complete with Donald Trump in his own sandbox defies established strategic positioning and communication logic.

    The shift in Senator Rubio’s tactics that began with the debates on February 25th, saw him sharply attack Donald Trump by trading personal insults before a CNN audience of millions. The attacks have continued on the campaign trail with the Rubio campaign even posting videos on its YouTube feed.  

     What’s puzzling is why Senator Rubio would go there. Yes, he is trailing in both the polls and delegate count to both Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz. And yes, he has to do something to spark his campaign and differentiate himself. But competing with Trump in the rhetoric of personal assaults only lowers himself to Trump’s level in an arena where he can’t win. It simply defies strategic thinking.

     Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter argues that effective strategy is not competing in the same race, but running a different race.

     “Competitive strategy is about being different,” says Porter. “It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.” 

Trump Rubio Perceptual Map

Figure 1

      What applies to business strategy, also applies to strategic communication. For the moment, Sen. Rubio has a strategic communication problem that is in part creating his electoral problem. The perceptual map below shows how the remaining four republican candidates are positioned on axis of personal attacks verses conservative values and voter empathy. (Figure 1) By occupying with Trump a similar position on the perceptual branding map, Rubio cannot differentiate himself.   He somehow has to figure out how to re-position himself in the sweet spot in the mind of the voters—that is, outside of the blue curve on the map. 

Effective strategy is more than positioning.  Porter argues that it is also equal parts operational efficiencies and competencies.  For example, Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 not just because of where he positioned himself in the mind of the voter, but also because his campaign had a core competency in social media engagement.  In 2012, the Obama campaign won again in part with its strategic superiority in using big data to mine the voter rolls.

     Time is clearly running out for Sen. Rubio and it may be already too late to for strategic changes to have any immediate impact.  If anyone is running a different race, it’s clearly Trump. Where the race is going, we don’t yet know.  Buckle up.

Presidential Campaign Ads – What Bernie, Hillary, Cruz and Trump are Really Trying to Say to US

25 Jan

Ads 2

         Don’t touch that dial.  Despite the more sophisticated uses of social media, big data, and earned media, the political TV ad is far from dead.

         All of the major presidential candidates have so far deployed a limited air campaign in hopes of attracting money and votes.  But as a means of communication, are they effective or even persuasive to their intended audiences?

         There are clear strategies behind the first ads from Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.   At least two of these ads are very similar to product introduction campaigns we would see in the consumer-packaged goods category.   In many respects, the candidates are consumer-packaged products.  But each one takes a different strategy in attracting support through their campaign commercials heading into the voting in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

         Perhaps the most surprising ad so far comes from one of the most surprising candidates—Bernie Sanders.  In a field where every candidate is in some way shouting at the voters, Sanders found a powerful way connect without saying a word. 

Bernie Ad 2

Screen frame from Bernie Sanders’ “America” campaign ad

         Sanders’ use of the Simon & Garfunkel song “America” underneath the imagery of everyday Americans and people packing into Sanders’ campaign rallies give the illusion of a country longing to re-discover itself.   This is an aspirational ad that plays to our emotions and hopes through the use of a beloved folk song from the late 1960’s.  

         For Millennials, the ad appeals to their need of belonging and their search to build a future in their own image.   For their baby boomer parents, the Simon and Garfunkel song is a powerful priming cue—a time machine that takes them back to their own idealistic youth when they too wanted to “look for America.”  

         Keep in mind, when “America” was recorded in 1968, the country was at a pivotal political and social crossroad.  That year witnessed the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and the upheaval at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.   The song that so much appealed to a new generation of Americans at that time has now been re-branded by Sanders as anthem for another new generation.  

          All good advertising should create an emotional bond between the product and the viewer—this one makes a powerful attempt.

         Where Sanders effectively uses nostalgia as an ad strategy, Trump just as effectively uses fear.

         By playing up to voters’ fear of terrorism Trump is effectively using Prospect Theory to mine for votes.   The behavioral economic theory holds that people are more fearful of potential loss than they are assured of a potential gain.   By tying terrorism to immigration, Trump uses those fears to make an argument that he is the candidate who will keep them safe.

 

         Hillary Clinton doesn’t outright use fear as her strategy, but she certainly is trying to appeal to voters’ anxieties about their economic and social struggles.

         In her latest ad, Clinton is not necessarily competing against Sanders, but instead republicans to whom she believes are not looking out for all Americans.

          Her message argument is that she’s fighting for all people who think they don’t have a chance.

 

          Finally, Ted Cruz trumpets his competence and authenticity.

         In many respects he’s re-introducing himself to voters in his latest TV ad as they prepare to head to the polls.   This ad is a clear appeal to rural voters reminding them of his Christian faith, commitment to freedom, and his political accomplishments.  While the ad doesn’t mention any specific opponent, it clearly attempts to differentiate himself from Donald Trump and Marco Rubio as the accomplished conservative in the race.

 

         When you break down all of the ads, there is a distinct strategy to each of them. (Figure 1)  They all have individual targeted audiences and a fairly clear message argument. 

Campaign Ad Graphic

Figure 1

         Arguably, Sanders may have the most powerfully aspirational ad of them all.  Trump effectively uses fear to motivate us to pay attention to his message.  Clinton plays to our desire to get ahead, and Cruz appeals to his competence help restore America.

         These are just four ads from four of the top candidates.   The race is young.  Stand by… and don’t touch that dial.

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GOP Presidential Buzz — Who’s Got it, Who Doesn’t

10 Aug

GOP Debates 1  8-15

      It was reality TV at its best.  There was shouting, insults, bombastic rhetoric, and… Rosie O’Donnell.   Welcome to the first 2016 GOP presidential debates.  As one political scientist noted, it was Jerry Springer without Jerry.  No, this is not your father’s Republican Party anymore.  But television viewers ate it up.   They didn’t just watch, they tweeted, liked, searched, posted, and searched some more.

     This modern day media consumption phenomena creates real-time winners and losers.  Marketers call it “buzz.”  Google calls it “search.”  Whatever you call it, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina owned it during the debates and it will likely deliver a short term boost to their campaigns. 

Figure 1

Figure 1

     The data from Google Trends shows that during the prime time debates, Donald Trump dominated web searches of people looking for more information on him and his presidential campaign. (Figure 1)  It doesn’t hurt that Trump has transformed himself into what political scientist David Schultz would call a politainer.  None of his nine competitors on the stage came close to the internet interaction he drove throughout the evening debates. 

     During the early undercard event called the “happy hour” debates, former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina also dominated internet buzz. (Figure 2)  Arguably, she commanded the attention in a more credible way.  Fiorina’s presence and responses were articulate, commanding, and authoritative.  She wasn’t just a candidate, she was a one-person c-suite—who just happens to be a woman.  She clearly connected with the audience in ways her early evening cohort did not.   GOP Debates 3  8-15

     What both Trump and Fiorina accomplished is part of the modern day political calculus.  In reality, it’s not much different from consumer product campaigns.  Buzz is one of the seven essential marketing drivers that brands from Proctor & Gamble to Beyonce use to grow their business.  

     Four years ago, I conducted a similar analysis of how buzz predicted the top finishers in the Iowa Caucuses where Rick Santorum won by a handful of votes.  The key is to stay consistent in the messaging and deliver enough strategic product news (campaign stances/messaging) to lead the followers on a journey toward activation—that is, contributing money and voting.   Santorum wasn’t able to sustain that early momentum and later dropped out of the race.  The jury is still out on whether Trump can also sustain the momentum, especially given his public statements about women and his not-so-wise fight with Fox’s Megyn Kelly.

     Social media is also part of the new calculus and contributes significantly to buzz and search.  On Twitter alone, interactions with the GOP debate topped major sporting events.

     It’s also no coincidence that Facebook co-sponsored the GOP debates with Fox News.  Facebook reports that 7.5 million people had more than 20 million interactions on the broadcast—that includes posts, likes and shares.   This is the new modern-day political engagement.   The candidates answered questions from Facebook during the debates through the channel’s own engagement campaign that drew 5 million views and 40,000 responses.   On the day of the event, Trump’s staff used the new “live” on Facebook feature to stream his arrival in Cleveland.   As of this writing it has earned more than two million views and 10,000 shares.

 

     Welcome to the 2016 presidential campaign.  As the first GOP debates showed, it will be a different kind of series of events with online engagement becoming increasing important drivers for securing funds and votes.

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