The 2016 United States of America Presidential election, will go down in history as one which defied many of the fundamentals of election predictability. Most of the poll-stars got it wrong in scoring the election for Hillary Clinton; with some, not only just placing her in a firm lead but also presumptuously scoring a double digits lead margin!
This is how the Hillary Clinton campaign was failed by design.
My friend Moses Mukisa looked at the American election through the lens of the power of Articulated Vision. In a Facebook post: He underscored the fact that in his campaign, President Elect Trump had articulated his would be vision for America in simple words: MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. On the other hand, however, Clinton’s vision was vague, with many people not sure what she stood for, her slogan wasn’t inspiring. STRONGER TOGETHER was bland and so was I AM WITH HER.
To a man with a hammer, all problems look like nails and for someone that has been doing branding for almost 2 decades, I would like to submit my analysis on how Clinton lost the election because of a weak brand position and ultimately Design.
The Obama Hangover.
The 2008 Presidential campaign was one of many firsts: it was the campaign that brought America’s first African American president. Not many people will forget the “O” in Obama. The American flag designs were embellished with rays of hope beaming over the horizon; a universal symbol for a brighter future. The unique O in his message was that of HOPE; one he had even written a book about. Hope is so powerful, it ranks so high among the reasons that have helped mankind to make the advances it has.
Barack was not the son of the ‘bond woman’, but the son of a FREE MAN: A Kenyan whose roots were firm in the Kenya village of Kogelo. He was free spirited and the word “negro” did not arouse flames of anger and offense as would have been to another African American with roots obscured by slavery. This was the fault of Jesse Jackson’s presidential bid, he often came off as a vindictive angry black man. Basically, the message of HOPE, CHANGE and OPTIMISM became synonymous with OBAMA and the power of this brand was the “O”. His message was encapsulated by a slogan-YES WE CAN! An affirmative mantra that appealed to the people and transcended the boundaries of politics. YES, WE CAN! The 8 years of the Obama Presidency have been relatively clean. Obama didn’t have any personal scandals and his oratory skills, cool and sporty demeanor vindicated him in many ways.
“The Trump Card”
Trump is a man who needed no introduction. He was not a new comer on the American Scene. Many people will argue that his was a protest vote by the American people against politicians but the simplicity and incisiveness of his message was remarkable. The Phrase MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN appealed to the human spirit: we are all called to greatness. Even when many Americans could not say when they thought America was greatest, they felt a sense of personal responsibility to indeed make America great again. The slogan drew so many similarities with, YES WE CAN.
“Hillary & History”
Hillary, like Trump needed no introduction. She was part of America’s power brokers and the first lady of the administration that is credited with Americas most “prosperous –era.” The colossal error that failed Hillary was trying to lead using the past. A past that she was also not comfortable with given the scandals it came along with., Bill’s women problem, some half truths she told in the past and the e-mail scandal many will never understand. The desire to look back when it benefited her, brought with it a load that was weightier than her “future” gear. Most of her gains were erased by the steps she took back to score points from her achievements. In short Hillary was stuck in Neutral.
“Designers Bland Brand Blander”
I recall a time when Photoshop 5.0 had just been launched and working in layers was now possible. The layer effects bevel and emboss and drop-shadow were so loved by designers and clients alike that if a concept was weak, all you did to strengthen it in order to get client approval was to apply a bevel and emboss effect to the headline or at worst drop a shadow –and Voila! You had it!
The ‘O’ in Obama having delivered a double victory seemed to bias the Branding team on the Hillary campaign. They simply could not think beyond ‘H’. This is the typical designers’ block! The campaign strategists of the Hillary campaign were hell bent on fitting the design into the strategy as opposed to letting the strategy inform the design. 2016 and 2008 have this in common too, Trump seemed to have leant from Obama and Hillary repeated John McCain’s mistakes both in strategy and tactics.
Sun Tsu the great Chinese general summarized it this way. “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory and tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” It is clear that the Trump campaign was heavy on strategy but weak on tactics and while the Clinton team was excellent with tactical implementation, their strategy was flawed. True to Sun’s words: Trumps victory was slow but we still hear the noise of Clinton’s defeat on some American streets.
How Good is your Brand?
We can help you fix it real good, ask Nomad!