Monday, 25 February 2008

She's lost control

Part of the reason Clinton is not winning is that her political narrative has been defined by everyone else. In a large sense, her "brand" is not her own.

When an advertiser or strategist is selling something, whether a product or a candidate, brand is important. Think of it as a little index card in the brain that conjures up one or two images that define what or who a product or person is.

The initial image of Hillary is not that she is not Barack Obama, but is part of Bill Clinton.

"The question for Hillary is, what can she put on that index card in voters' brains that is going to make a difference for her in the stretch?" wonders media strategist John Brabender, who makes his living branding candidates, mostly Republicans.

I think this comment highlights two interesting points. First, there are the linkages between a “brand” and a “narrative” or “story”. They are really just different aspects of what Salena Zito’s “little index card”. A story is the engine by a brand which is communicated and brought to life so that people can understand it, both on the rational and emotional levels. The Democratic primaries have reinforced the basic reality that a political narrative is not about listing off policies or values -- “I am a liberal etc.” It’s about marketing and branding and works when a candidate tells stories that engage with the emotions and expectations of the voters, so as to define him or herself. S/he must also embody those stories. Senator Obama has understood this. His next challenge, however, is to outweigh all the counter-stories.

The other is that Senator Clinton has not been an effective storyteller. This point was well made by E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post ten days ago. It was also made by Stephen Denning – a sage of storytelling – last October!! He compared Senator Clinton, then the Democrats’ frontrunner with Al Gore, their nominee in 2000, and observed:

As a good student who does her homework and is articulate in debates, Hillary has not found a way to make herself likable. She has been unable to communicate what sort of a person she really is and what she really believes in.

Like Gore, Hillary generally makes her case through abstract arguments, discussing and analyzing problems and proposing solutions. This leaves an audience dazed rather than inspired. It fails to engage them at an emotional level. Like Gore in 2000, she tends to sound mechanistic and bureaucratic.

Although it’s possible that the Republicans will be so utterly divided and inept that Hillary may win anyway, don’t count on it.

The lesson of 2000 is that a presidential candidate who doesn’t how to connect with the electorate, is vulnerable and likely to squander the most powerful rational advantages. She may be defeated even by an improbable candidate with no national or international experience.

1 comment:

Peter Crispin said...

Has Clinton now sunk to Mike Huckabee's level?

Awful. And shame on you too, Jack!

It should also be pointed out that 80% of the characters used in these clips are psychos.