Clearly in today’s rough and tumble world of politics, candidates are packaged as brands, says Alan Siegel, Chairman and CEO of Siegel+Gale. Their handlers work hard to position them. They use research to determine how they are perceived and what messages they can use that are credible and resonate with voters, and they try to find a voice that defines their distinctive personae to differentiate them from the competition.
- Hillary Clinton has been seen as the leading Democratic brand—the experienced leader, an articulate policy wonk, and an insider who has seen it all as the candidate who spent eight years in the White House.
- John McCain is the straight-talking rebel.
- John Edwards is the empathetic populist who grew up in a modest house in North Carolina and champions the plight of middle class Americans.
- Barack Obama casts himself as the energetic change agent with the charisma necessary to inspire a new generation of leadership through the politics of inclusion.
- Mike Huckabee offers solace to Christian values voters who hunger for religious guidance in uncertain times.
- Mitt Romney demands to be seen as a socially conservative but entrepreneurial CEO who seeks market solutions to the nation’s challenges.
But to prevail, the candidates must stay true to their brand promises. Right now, as the Democratic nomination narrows to a fierce competition between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Mrs. Clinton is undermining her position as the “Leading Brand” among the Democratic candidates with attacks on Barack Obama, the “Challenger Brand.”
By morphing into an “Attack Brand,” Mrs. Clinton is changing her brand voice. Instead of leveraging her experience and public policy ideas to enact a transformative vision for the United States, she is providing evidence to voters who have a visceral concern about her ambition and willingness to go to any extreme to be elected. This strategy of attacking the honesty and candor of Barack Obama, especially through the intervention of former President Bill Clinton, is counter to the brand image she has been presenting, and feeds the cynicism that has so many Americans turned off by politics, politicians, and Hillary Clinton specifically.
For Hillary Clinton to win the nomination and counter the fierce Republican attacks that will be directed at her, she must live her brand. Adopt the role of a thought leader. Above all, rise above the petty attack strategies that have characterized her campaign when things get tough. And put a muzzle on President Clinton. His aggressive campaigning undermines her assertion that she will be an effective leader who is calling the shots.
The American people are looking for a courageous and inspirational leader to address the critical issues—energy conservation, health care, free trade, and immigration—that undermine our future.