When Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination with “humility, determination and boundless confidence in America’s promise” it was the culmination of decades of public service. As the first ever woman to lead a major presidential ticket, Clinton is living proof of the power of never quitting. A champion of the overlooked and overworked, she told delegates "More than a few times I've had to pick myself up and get back into the game."
However historic her nomination, Clinton’s campaign is not going to be easy and it is clear that her much touted problem with ‘likeability’ has its roots in subtle sexism. The same work ethic that would be celebrated in men is used as a stick to beat her for being a ‘workaholic’. Yet in her ability to keep focused, work hard and collaborate to bring her party together the Democratic presidential hopeful reveals a myriad of lessons for marketers.
The power of honesty
Clinton’s personal brand has been shaped by taking a collaborative approach to speech writing and communication. Rather than ignoring her critics, she had tackled their accusations head on. She has even admitted that public speaking is not easy for her and she is not a natural politician like her husband or Obama. While collaboration and consensus may not make for the most dramatic speeches, as a long-term strategy it pays dividends.
The power of inclusion and diversity
“When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit,” declared Clinton in her landmark campaign which is successfully challenging perceptions of assertive behaviour and power amongst women. Touting her campaign as one of inclusiveness and diversity has been a winning strategy. In a time of significant economic and political uncertainty, Clinton’s focus on the fact that Americans are stronger together reflects the growing importance of inclusive marketing strategies.
By placing herself in the centre ground she can better connect with a wider pool of voters. She has heaped praise on her former opponent Bernie Saunders and her ability to bring disillusioned Republicans into her campaign is impressive.
The power of experience
As Barack Obama said so eloquently, there has never been a man or woman more qualified to be president of the USA than Hillary Clinton. Expertise is fighting back: "It's true," she revealed, "I sweat the details of policy."
In the social media era the 'cult of personality' has placed professional identity front and centre. In many ways this identity has superseded real expertise. In this environment Clinton must walk a tight-rope of being human and accessible, whilst protecting her credibility and expertise.
All too often the drive to be more accessible and human leads to over-sharing on social media platforms, undermining your personal brand and professional credentials. As Clinton noted of her rival Donald Trump during her speech: "A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons."
The power of positive values
As the US political debate becomes increasingly personal and partisan it would be all too easy for the Clinton campaign to launch ‘project fear’ over the impact of a Trump presidency. Yet, ultimately as the Remain campaign in the UK found out to its cost, while fear is a motivating emotion, it does not galvanise supporters around a shared purpose. Giving consumers someone and something to believe in is more powerful than fear can ever be.
In line with this, Clinton’s campaign is focused around communicating the positive values of inclusivity and hope. As first lady Michelle Obama declared in an impassioned speech at the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, as parents they tell their daughters the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of the country. When someone is cruel or acts like a bully you don’t stoop to their level. “Our motto is, when they go low, we go high,” she explained
Hillary Clinton has been criticised in everything from how she looks, her ability to deliver a speech and even how she laughs. But she is still standing, still aiming high and that alone is a salient lesson for marketers.
Simon Massey is global chief executive of The Gild