February 22, 2008

How Hillary Clinton can still differentiate herself from Barack Obama on foreign policy

Obviously, these are difficult times for the Clinton campaign, and Barack Obama is the most likely Democratic nominee for president. His messaging strategy, so far successful, has in essence been:

  1. Pitch “change” as a top-level message.
  2. Claim that being a pro-change outsider is more conducive to getting things done than being an experienced insider.
  3. Adopt similar policy positions to his rivals, so as to reduce the chance for differentiation there.
  4. Show that he’s not “too much” of an outsider, by collecting insiders’ endorsements.
  5. Claim that primary electoral success demonstrates both that he’s likely to have general election success in the fall and also that he’s likely to lead effectively once elected.

So Clinton desperately needs to differentiate herself from Obama, beneficially, more than she already has. But how? Read more

January 9, 2008

Updating my marketing prescriptions for the Clinton campaign

The competitive landscape in the 2008 Democratic presidential campaign has changed significantly since Tuesday morning. What does this do to the marketing strategy I suggested for Hillary Clinton a mere 24 hours ago? Let’s see. Read more

January 9, 2008

How Hillary Clinton regained authenticity

A huge fraction of what I do as a marketing consultant is advise on how to be credible. In consumer marketing – including politics – analysis often focuses on the closely related factor of authenticity instead. Hillary Clinton’s stunning New Hampshire win is in large part being attributed to a sudden recapture of authenticity.

I agree with that top-level analysis. Specifically, I think there were four main factors driving the sudden change in Clinton’s image. Read more

January 8, 2008

An interesting but flawed process critique of the Clinton campaign

Over on DailyKos, webranding gives an interesting reason for Hillary Clinton’s marketing problems: He says bad decisions were inevitable because Mark Penn is both head pollster and head strategist — i.e., both the message crafter and the message tester. That is, webranding argues it was foreordained that polls would validate the strategy Mark Penn already decided on.

Implicit in this critique is the idea that one should test messages via polling. Now, up to a point I agree that’s a great idea. But political campaigns aren’t just about pitching to people’s preconceptions — they’re also about changing people’s minds. Read more

January 8, 2008

The classic marketing mistake Hillary Clinton now needs to avoid

I’m writing this Tuesday morning. It is widely expected that Hillary Clinton will get shellacked in the New Hampshire primary, and her campaign is searching for a strategy with which to rebound.

The temptation will be to make a classic marketing error: Excessive focus. And if they fall into that trap, they will lose.

If Hillary Clinton is to win the Democratic nomination, her campaign now has to simultaneously follow all (or at least most) of the following strategies:

January 8, 2008

Hillary Clinton is ideally positioned to run on women’s rights in 2008. (And not just because she’s female.)

In a previous post, I argued that Hillary Clinton’s primary opportunity for differentiation –- specifically, versus her two main rivals, who are also smart, liberal lawyer-senators — lies in being female and Bill Clinton’s wife. I further suggested that she’s extremely well-qualified to be an icon of 2008 women’s rights, which could let her pursue this strategy to great advantage. Here’s what I meant.

Read more

January 8, 2008

How Hillary Clinton could be more effectively marketed

The essence of strategic marketing and positioning is:

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:

How could those traits be marketed to best advantage? Read more

January 8, 2008

Marketing change in the Democratic primaries, Part 4 – is it a wise strategy?

As I’ve discussed in three prior posts, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign truly revolves around a message of “change.” This has obviously been a successful strategy for him. So does that mean his rivals are right to try to blur his message or steal his thunder?

I think so, for each of John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, albeit for different reasons. Read more

January 8, 2008

Marketing change in the Democratic Primaries, Part 3 – implicit messaging

When discussing strategic messaging, it is often useful to draw a distinction between explicit messaging (essentially, what’s said outright, in words) and implicit messaging (everything else). I outlined the explicit change messages of Senators Clinton, Obama, and Edwards in a previous post. Now I’d like to highlight some of their (presumably conscious) implicit messaging that supports – or contradicts – their explicit claims.

Again, Obama leads the way. He at least creates the appearance of using a variety of modern internet technologies to communicate with his supporters, and ties this into a pledge to use technology to make government more transparent and responsive to its citizens. The photo section of BarackObama.com focuses on showing him with a broad range of “ordinary” people. Read more

January 8, 2008

Marketing change in the Democratic Primaries, Part 2 – competing definitions

Barack Obama is running almost purely as the candidate of change, and has been for his whole political career. Accordingly, he has the most complex, multi-faceted, and well-developed change message of any major candidate in either party, even ahead of libertarian/survivalist Republican Ron Paul.

When I visited BarackObama.com on Sunday, the first three slogans I saw were

And it continues from there. Obama has been active in various return-the-government-to-the-people kinds of issues – campaign finance reform, a search engine of government information (which he presented on the debate as a big deal), and so on. His “Let’s be united, not divided” message is couched in terms of change. His recent book title “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” is full of words with connotations of change. He calls himself a “progressive.” He even compares himself to Martin Luther King. And his campaign hardly shies away from the suggestion that Obama’s very skin color would, if he were elected, represent dramatic change.

John Edwards’ message is similar, but at its core he’s pushing a narrower, classically populist concept of “change.” Read more

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