Riding the Wave
Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.
Though you won’t find it on her website, this is Hillary’s unofficial motto. She’s crossed every t, dotted every i and checked every box she deemed necessary to machete her way through the patriarchy jungle of politics and stand on the cusp of history.
She’s been in the limelight for almost her whole career and her persona has shifted slightly for every new job she’s taken, from the First Lady of Arkansas to Secretary of State. Because of this, she’s often criticized as being a flip-flopper or a disingenuous panderer. But so far, her brand has prevailed.
When Ted Cruz dropped out of the race, the Republican pool of candidates officially shrank from 17 to one. And her personal brand made another well-timed shift to the next logical phase: Using Donald Trump’s missteps to her advantage.
Opportunistic? Sure. Smart? Definitely.
Of course it’s politics as usual to bash your opponent. But Clinton and her crew have been particularly clever about the way they go about it, and it’s working. Here’s how Hillary is embracing the political climate and shaping her personal brand – yet again – for the occasion.
Her website features an almost dizzying collage of “Love trumps hate” stickers but, other than that, it’s solid. Lots of vibrant colors, attractive fonts, strong images and an easy-to-navigate layout. Nothing groundbreaking, but strong nonetheless. However, there’s something her site features which no other candidate’s does. It’s called the “Feed,” and it’s juicy.
The Feed is a section that features less news content and more editorial content, and it’s really good. In digital media, shares and clicks are the most valuable currency, and this portion is evidence of Team Hillary’s savvy. There are three pieces in the Feed about Donald Trump that all feature a large image of Trump, a scathing headline and a witty sub-head. One of the more intriguing titles is, “62 of the most devastating things Republicans have called Donald Trump.” It shows that Hillary’s team and Elizabeth Chan, the piece’s author, know how to control the narrative and find external fuel for her brand’s internal fire.
It’s no coincidence that each article has about as many social shares as four links from the “Issues” page combined. Even hot issues like gun violence and climate change are represented elsewhere on the site and don’t garner nearly the same number. Hillary’s crew knows that there are only two names guaranteed to get you clicks: Kardashian and Trump.
This isn’t to say she’s not talking about the issues. She certainly is. But this is a very clever use of her website and shows her team knows how their audience engages with the internet, which is essential to successful personal branding.
Donald Trump’s history with women has been…well…complicated. As Hillary has set her sights on Trump, so has Trump set his on Hillary. In one of his more recent jabs, The Donald eloquently accused Hillary of “playing the woman card.” Hillary and her team didn’t particularly like that, but how they responded was quite clever. Not only did Hillary give a speech embracing “the woman card,” her site started ACTUALLY SELLING A WOMEN CARD (a whole deck of them, too).
Hillary did what every great brand should be able to do: turn the negative into the positive. She embraced the knock against her and turned it into something very positive, and it helped her personal brand take a confident step forward.
There’s a pillar in marketing that states, “Go where your audience is.” By most estimates, women make up as little as 68 percent of Pinterest users and as much as 87 percent. So what does Hillary have that no other candidate does? A Pinterest profile. It features her own photos, things from her website and shop (obviously), and even some highly coveted user generated content. Her 8.2K followers certainly don’t make her a juggernaut for the platform, but she’s there and using it well. The line between pandering for votes and appealing to an audience is sometimes a fine one, and Hillary Clinton has certainly been on both sides. But she teaches us an important lesson: a personal brand isn’t permanent. It’s fluid, it changes, it morphs. Not everyone will like your brand all the time. And that’s ok. Team Hillary is giving us a lesson in how to ride the wave by turning negatives into positives and letting the audience define the brand.