The essence of strategic marketing and positioning is:
- Explain what’s unique about your product.
- Explain why people should care.
Let’s apply that framework to Hillary Clinton.
The three leading candidates for the Democratic nomination are all smart, fairly liberal lawyers, each with 3-7 years of experience serving in the US Senate. Not a lot of difference there. Clearly, then, the most unique aspects to Hillary Clinton as a candidate are:
- She’s female.
- She’s Bill Clinton’s wife.
How could those traits be marketed to best advantage? There are three main approaches that come to mind.
As President Bill Clinton’s wife and closest partner, Hillary Clinton is the heir to his experience, his track record, his friends, and his donors. The Clinton campaign has pursued this strategy very effectively.
As a woman, Hillary Clinton represents progress, opportunity, and respect for other women. Women should naturally support one of their own, and so should men to whom women’s rights are important. Although Clinton clearly started with significant benefit from this view, she seems to have taken it for granted, rather than working to strengthen it. Oprah-powered Obama is making major inroads into Clinton’s female support base.
As a woman, Hillary Clinton just naturally embodies virtues desirable in a leader, such as motherliness, ability to create consensus, or disinclination to use violence. Yeah, right. Clinton has about as much hope of selling that message as Margaret Thatcher did. Clinton has to look elsewhere for marketing success. The prevailing views on Clinton’s personality may be unfair, but they’re marketing reality even so.
As I just noted, Approach #1 is already in the bag, while Approach #3 is hopeless. Thus, the key to Hillary Clinton’s campaign is reinvigorating her position as an icon of women’s rights.
Fortunately for her, that’s eminently doable – and without undermining the “just as tough and authoritative as a man” image she obviously is concerned to project. The key is to focus on the women’s rights issues that are agreed to have persisted into the 21st Century, which happen to be ones that her life story makes her ideally qualified to address. By way of contrast, her campaign shouldn’t ignore women’s issues altogether (a mistake they are pretty much making, Emily’s List fund-raising aside) — but neither should they swing all the way back to fighting the classic women’s liberation battles of the 1960s-80s.