A study entitled "Candidates as Brands" has revealed that more U.S. voters relate to the brands aligned to Democrat U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton than Republican Donald Trump.
While the Clinton brand aligned with profiles of brands, including American Airlines, the United States Postal Service and Visit Florida, the Trump brand was unlike any brand found in the database of more than 100,000 brands according to the study by leading global research agency Millward Brown.
Interestingly, Donald Trump did not align with one single brand found in a database of more than 100,000 brands - meaning that not one commercial brand had the same characteristics and he has truly become the 'un-candidate.' Additionally, former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders aligned with brands including JetBlue, Instagram and Ghirardelli Chocolate.
Commenting on the findings, Christopher Murphy, chief client officer said, “The Clinton brand profile aligns with brands in our database that are accessible and reliable, but not particularly innovative or disruptive; that is, her brand is salient and meaningful to many, but it has little differentiation. Brand Trump is unlike any brand in our database; extraordinary when considering we measure more than 100,000 brands. Trump seems to have employed a true category disassociation strategy; he’s the ‘un-candidate’ and has created a brand like no other.”
The study, Candidates as Brands, assessed each candidate’s brand using Millward Brown’s Meaningfully Different framework, a method used to evaluate a commercial brand’s power via its meaning, difference and salience. The framework has been validated against sales outcomes and correlates with brand success and market share. When the primary season was in full swing, the Sanders brand showed a stronger combination of meaning and difference when compared with the Clinton and Trump brands, but had much lower salience.
“We know that meaningfully different brands are much more likely to be selected, to command greater premiums and to grow in the future,” said Murphy. “And while our typical study might evaluate the strength of, for example, a CPG, financial services or automotive brand, political candidates can be evaluated through a brand lens too: Does the candidate meaningfully connect – either functionally or emotionally? Is the candidate seen as different or capable of driving positive change? And, is the candidate top of mind, or salient?”
When comparing the Clinton and Trump brands, both index highly on salience (149 and 159 respectively, where an average index is 100), but show dissimilar profiles for meaning and difference. Clinton leads on meaning (108 compared with Trump’s 76), with Trump well ahead on difference (157 compared with Clinton’s 70). But while Trump’s unique combination of extreme difference and salience helped his brand stand apart from 16 relatively undifferentiated Republican candidates during the primary season, his low meaning score now poses a significant hurdle in a narrowed general election field.
In contrast, while Sanders was the least salient of the three with an index of 78, he had the strongest meaning score in the group, measured at 130, and a markedly higher difference score, 121, compared with Brand Clinton.
Murphy commented, “While the primary schedule did not work in Sanders’ favor – his salience was still building but substantially lagged Clinton’s – his brand’s meaning and difference would be the envy of many marketers.”
The study also explored the lack of brand love for both Trump and Clinton, and concludes that twice as many voters will hate our next president than will love him or her, and that the majority will not trust our next president. The hatred and brand rejection expressed towards Trump among some groups was significant, with 64 per cent of women and 90 per cent of African Americans rejecting the brand.
Compared with Trump, Clinton has much stronger brand power (a combination of meaning, difference and salience and expressed as share of preference) among key demographic groups, including women, African-Americans, Hispanics, younger and religiously unaffiliated voters. With Christians essentially split between Trump and Clinton, those who practice other religions and the estimated quarter of the population that is religiously unaffiliated are firmly aligned with Brand Clinton with a Power score of 74, compared to Trump’s score of 26.
Murphy concluded, “There might not be many campaign bumper stickers in the weeks ahead, but relative meaning matters most in a two-way battle where both brands are so well known. Brand Clinton may struggle with trust and differentiation, but if the election were held today, she would win because of meaningfully connecting with a greater array of demographic groups and the estimated quarter of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated.“