Unless Bernie Sanders can appeal to the Democratic Super Delegates’ sense of fairness and get them to reconsider their commitments based on the outcome of the most recent state primaries and caucuses, our November presidential contest will be between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
As I see it, this election is an incredible opportunity for all of us to get a front row seat to history and watch some of the best branding minds in the country put their heads together to build their candidates’ images.
If you can remove your partisan hat for a moment and take a strategic look at both sides, let me share what my buddy, marketing genius John Demarchi thinks is the way Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump should build their brands.
- Hillary needs to build the case that Donald Trump is dangerous, inexperienced, and unpredictable. She needs to ask this question: “Are you comfortable giving nuclear codes to a completely inexperienced rookie with no legislative or diplomatic experience who incites crowds to violence?”
- Hillary needs to say: “Trump is show business. And he’s entertaining, like watching cat videos on the Internet. But giving him the power of the presidency? That’s not funny – that’s dangerous. And these are already dangerous times. When the seas are rough, you don’t find a captain who has never sailed before to take you to safe harbor…”
- At the same time, Hillary needs to talk less. Instead she needs to speak in sound bites that people can remember. “We can build bridges… or we can build walls.” “We can tell everyone ‘you’re fired’… or we can create jobs.”
- Hillary is not a natural candidate on the campaign trail but she’s a powerful symbol for the sisterhood. She needs to stop trying to out-shout Trump and Sanders and speak gently. Instead Hillary should surround herself with people such as Bill Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker who can make the sale for her.
- The woman card Hillary needs to play is simply as everyone’s Mom and Grandmother. Mom is about love, not hate. Grandmother has the warm wisdom of experience.
- I don’t know if Hillary is likeable enough to get elected but that’s the only question she needs to get right. If she gets every policy point correct but people still don’t like her, she cannot win. If people think Donald Trump is attacking “Mom/Grandmother” Hillary, he will no longer appear strong. Instead he’ll be read as sexist, misogynistic, and a bully.
- This kind of language would slay at the convention: “For 240 years American women have watched men lead this country into wars… watched men increase income inequality… watched the advantaged and privileged deny basic social justice for the disadvantaged and the voiceless. Well, I hear your voice. And I’m pretty sure that somewhere up there in the 57th floor of his multimillion-dollar penthouse a certain foul-mouthed New York billionaire… well, he can’t hear your voices all the way up there in his ivory tower. But I’m right here with you and I hear you. I am for solving income inequality – not for electing billionaires to the presidency.”
At the same time, here’s what the Donald needs to say and do:
- At every campaign event Trump should be surrounded with a diverse group of women. For all intents and (photo opp) purposes, his daughter Ivanka should become his (virtual) running mate.
- Donald Trump should say precisely why he’s the candidate for women. He’ll protect them; he’ll let them protect themselves (NRA shtick); he’ll give them jobs; he’ll give their kids opportunities, etc.
- In that speech Trump should list the countries that oppress women and have given massive speaking fees to Bill and Hillary Clinton and their foundation. He should demand that she give the money back, or be seen as funding a truly global war on women. Trump should suggest that women suffering in Iraq happened on Hillary’s watch. He should position the refugee crisis as having happened because of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy.
- Trump should not hammer Hillary on the legality of her actions (emails, etc.) but by waving the flag in her face. Say she risked the national security of the United States and its operatives in the field for her own convenience. Trump needs to remember that people don’t care about the fact that lawyers say she violated the law. They care that anyone would dare endanger American lives – especially operatives and troops. That will make Hillary have to defend with, “I never put the lives of troops or CIA operatives at risk.” THAT video clip will live forever just like “I did not have sex with that woman” did. You can’t defend against a negative.
- The magic words Trump cannot say often enough, and always in front of a flag, are “USA, women, military, vets, the wall, great, and America.”
- Trump needs to talk directly to black voters and ask one question: “Democrats have controlled every major urban market in the USA for nearly 50 years… how is that working out for African-Americans?” He needs to point out that schools are a mess, crime is rampant, racial relations are at an all-time low, and opportunity for economic advancement barely exists. Of course Trump won’t win the African-American vote, but if he gets even 15%, he can win the presidency.
- No matter how many people hate Trump, there’s something they hate even more – politicians. And nobody embodies politician more than Hillary. Trump will brand her with two words – “Crooked” and “Politician.” In fact, the more Hillary tries to run on Bill’s magical ‘90s, the more Trump will remind people she is a career politician and that they hate politicians.
Regardless of whether you support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or anyone else, I hope you were able to read these suggestions without screaming at the points you don’t agree with. Like you I have a clear favorite and think the other side is an abomination. But what matters to marketers is what our consumers think – and in this case, our consumers are the people who are going to vote. Watching how those voters are enticed and seduced presents great lessons that you can use to build you own brand.
“May you live in interesting times,” indeed.