5 Branding Lessons from the 2016 Presidential Campaign

The 2016 Presidential Campaign is loaded with great branding lessons that every company and person can apply to their favorite brand.   I’ll try to be unbiased.

1.   Awareness Trumps –  The ascension of the Trump brand has been astronomical, largely due to awareness.   You had heard Trumpof him before, and you’ve certainly heard of him now. Millions of Americans were exposed to the Trump brand through his television series, real estate and entertainment holdings, media-inducing polarizing comments, and the unique, visual persona.  He’s said more soundbite friendly and contentious comments since, further gaining publicity.   The political pundits were quick to downplay his legitimacy, yet he dominated media mentions.   If you’ve heard of something and it registers in your mind, it has successfully penetrated the critical consideration set – the short list of things you might choose.

Latest NBC/WSJ Poll

2.   Differentiate –  Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Bernie Sanders are succeeding, largely on their ability to  differentiate themselves.  carson Ben Carson expertly plays the ‘I’m from outside of politics, plain-speaking neurosurgeon’ game, Carly is the ‘seasoned ex-HP CEO, non-Hilary female leader,’ who deftly leveraged the “look at that face” Trump gaffe into a gift, and Bernie Sanders is the self-described democratic socialist focused on improving middle class inequality.   He also is the sole non-Hilary Democratic option.   Conversely, Scott Walker, an early front-runner dropped to oblivion and out as one of the many ‘successful governor with relevant experience’ options. You must be different, and relevantly different, to be selected from your competition.

3.   Be Authentic – Consumers demand authenticity in their brands and selections.   Consumers have a strong “bs meter” Clinton and have 24/7 access to social media that can uncover and amplify lies, inconsistencies, and skeletons.   On the (at least perceived) authenticity meter (net score on honest and trustworthy, latest Quinnipiac poll) Carson (+51),  Biden (+45), Sanders (+23), and Bush (+19) lead, while Clinton (-31) and Trump (-22) take a beating.   A brand is a promise to consumers – what you are, what you stand for, and what you consistently do – and consumers value and crave credibility and authenticity.

4.   Resonate – Your offer must resonate with your target audience; know what their key issues are, articulate how you solve their most important issues, and speak their language.    Despite his polarizing personality and image (top 4 Quinnipiac poll descriptors: arrogant, blowhard, idiot, businessman), his surge is largely explained because his messages of ‘make America great again’ and ‘sick of insider incompetence’ resonate deeply with a vast population.   He may ultimately have a product and personal credibility gap (29% of GOP voters would definitely not support Trump), but his message unquestionably resonates.

5.    Cut Through the Clutter – You must sharply define and articulate your unique brand positioning.  At the moment, Presidential_DebatesTrump, Carson, Fiorina, and Sanders’ brands are memorable and clear.   Although still early in the campaign where Trump’s style over substance noise is captivating consumers and the media, several extremely solid, admirable and, arguably, superior talent – like  Kasich and Pataki are going relatively unnoticed so far, as 57% and 58% “haven’t heard enough” about them, respectively.

As the campaigning and jockeying for position continues, we continue to enjoy the show and its rich brand and marketing lessons.   The marketing communication is riveting, but great brands perform on measurable criteria over time.

 

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Brand Authenticity: Tiger’s Tailspin

Brands must be authentic.    Great brands, like people, create positive enduring relationships based on their credibility and consistency.      While brands have always needed to continuously earn their esteem, social media now makes brand authenticity a mandate.     All eyes are watching your brand, and missteps are reported globally in an instant.    Keep it simple.    Make your brand authentic.

Lack of authenticity is what’s driving the unprecedented demise of the Tiger Woods brand.   His ‘brand truth’ is dramatically different from the carefully honed aspirational brand image.    And it was that faux brand image and esteem that made brand Tiger so ideal for corporate sponsorships.     Incessant media coverage and its exponential visibility in the blogosphere unearthed the size of brand Tiger’s lack of authenticity.     Post-media frenzy, his champion credentials will remain, but the ‘wonderful man’ imagery has been unveiled as a sham.      Brand Tiger’s demise is an extreme, but illustrative example, of the danger of lack of brand authenticity.     Last week, AT&T joined the growing list of multi-million dollar sponsors who really had no choice but to stop aligning their brand with Tiger Woods.    The financial value of the Tiger Woods brand is a fraction of what it was just a month ago.     Continue reading