‘Hillary has her own brand.”
That’s a message I received from a man on my email distribution list when I sent out my recent National Review Online article on likely Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign manager John Podesta, entitled “Why Should Hillary Be Worried About This Man?“
That sounded intriguing. Hillary Clinton certainly has wide name recognition, but with her checkered political career, her new efforts to win over rural workers, and the long shadow of her husband, it’s not clear what particular identity she will be bringing to the next presidential election.
When I asked my pen pal to explain, he responded, “She is Hillary Clinton and everyone knows who she is,” then laid out her specific assets:
- When her husband was president she was the second most powerful person in Washington. She had an office in the West Wing. She wielded a lot of power where she was regarded as a co-president and had a bird’s eye view of what was going on.
- She spent 8 years in the Senate, where she brought home the bacon for New York State.
- She was secretary of state and improved the image of the United States around the world.
- She knows everyone there is to know in the United States and around the world.
- She is the best prepared and most qualified person to run for president in my lifetime.
- Hillary is widely seen as a grownup, with gravitas and a seasoned veteran in a field of amateurs who have no records of experience.
My correspondent went on to specify that the Hillary brand transcends her only experience holding a real executive-branch office — her unimpressive turn as secretary of state in President Obama’s first term.
“She does not have to run from Obama because I believe he has a good record to run on which has to be articulated,” he wrote. “However nobody associates her with Obama. People associate her with her husband. They are a team, Bhillary. Hillary would be running for her husband’s third term. Hillary has been known far longer than Obama and has her own identity.” Although he then descended into name-calling against various Republican candidates he considered not “fit to hold her handbag,” this rabid Hillary supporter revealed some problems and opportunities facing the 2016 GOP.
First, let’s define the concept of Brand Hillary in Marketing 101 terms.
Voters, like consumers, will buy or vote for a familiar name brand. Marketing science tells us that after decades of hearing about and seeing a name brand, voters and consumers think they know all about the product they are buying (or voting for.)
This kind of recognition — people who will buy Brand Hillary but don’t know why — is exemplified in another supporter I met recently: a young professional woman who told me at a dinner party that she is voting for Hillary but that “I don’t know why and I realize how awful that sounds.”
Republican candidates in 2015 and 2016 can begin a concerted strategy of casting doubt in the minds of voters about the quality, philosophy, history, contradictions, and trustworthiness of Brand Hillary. But just repeatedly stating that a potential President Hillary equals Obama’s third term and continuously recalling recent past and ’90s-era scandals will not resonate with enough battleground voters to win back the White House.
Instead, all the various components comprising “Brand Hillary,” as stated in my reader’s emails, must be addressed, dismantled, and pounded — piece by piece, starting the moment she announces her candidacy. After almost two years of hammering away at her actual record and speeches (carried out in a respectful manner), swing voters might realize that Brand Hillary has expired and should be retired. (Guerrilla tactics such as Republicans’ secretly sending money encouraging Senator Elizabeth Warren to launch a serious challenge to Hillary should also be part of this grand plan.)
Of course, all the GOP candidates must offer their own attractive alternative brands with mass appeal. If not, voters and consumers will keep buying that “classic” brand with its new shiny redesigned package displaying a label reading “reformulated” (or maybe “reset”) and “20 percent more.”
The GOP must soon launch this aggressive, fact-based marketing campaign to ensure that Brand Hillary’s relaunch is a big fat dud. The success of the campaign will be measured when millions of young women, like the one I met at dinner, know exactly why blindly supporting Hillary translates into a continuation of failed liberal policies repackaged in a designer pantsuit.
— Myra Adams is a media producer and political writer. She was on the 2004 Bush campaign’s creative team and the 2008 McCain campaign’s ad council. Her writing credits include PJ Media, the Daily Beast, RedState, and the Daily Caller.