Political Brands: Hillary Clinton, the Queen of Reinvention

Photo creditCSIS: Center for Strategic & International Studies via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

What is a political brand?

“A political brand is the overarching feeling, impression, association or image the public has towards a politician, political organisation, or nation.”

“Political branding helps the party or candidate to help change or maintain reputation and support, create a feeling of identity with the party or its candidates and create a trusting relationship between political elites and consumers.”


Elections can be exhausting to follow especially when they seem to last for ages. This year happens to be an election year in the US. Americans will be deciding their next president. At the moment the primaries, the process through which the major parties nominate their candidate, is still ongoing. This post is the first out of 2 focusing on the Democratic candidates for Presidents and their political brands. It also happens to be the first official post of Political Brands: A Feature.

I will try to not show my love for Hillary too strong and provide a fair account of both her and Sanders’ political brands.

Hillary Clinton – The Queen of Reinvention

Lawyer. Mother. Wife. Former First lady of Arkansas. Former FLOTUS. Senator. Secretary of State.

Hillary Clinton has an extensive resumé in public life. A great part of her life has been lived under the limelight and that plays to her brand’s advantage and disadvantage.

The positives:

1. Instant name recognition

You hear Clinton and chances are that you know who Bill Clinton is, and you know about his wife.

2. The woman knows the political game

She’s seen it and breathed it. She’s seen it evolve and morph into the monster it has now become. And she knows how to play it. She knows how to fundraise, she knows who she needs on her side to win.

3. She is the queen of reinvention

This point relates to the one before. Being part of the public world for so long has allowed her to learn from her mistakes and become more in tune with her prospective voters and to find the right medium to reach them (e.g. announcing her campaign through Youtube). She reinvented herself in the 1992 election by toning down her image of the strong career woman for her husband’s campaign. She reinvented herself when she ran for Senate, her accent no longer reminding people of the Deep South but of NY, and she has again reinvented herself for this presidential contest. She sounds presidential, and she acts presidential already (listen to her speeches or even her performance in debates and you’ll see). She’s not afraid to talk about her gender, and she’s not afraid to laugh about herself as her SNL sketch shows.

The negatives:

1. She is a woman

I wish we lived in a world where that did not matter but it does. Some folks still cannot deal with the idea that a woman may want to run for the highest political office. Hillary has been portrayed as too calculating, vying for political power  from the moment she entered the national political stage. I could write a whole post, or parts of a thesis (which I actually have done) on the attacks she received from the conservatives and how those attacks have harmed her reputation. She’s seen as a rightie and the queen of dishonest. Although attitudes have changed, this inherent sexism can be seen in comments of pundits asking her to smile or bashing her for yelling too much,m. Or more subtedly in the way in which people tend to judge her more harshly for doing things male politicians get away with every day.

And let me not get started on stereotypes about women inherent weakness and impaired judgement when it comes to decision making. I could go on all day.

(For those who want to read more about this the Huffington Post has a good post and so does Quartz.)

2. Flip-flopper?

Where does Hillary actually stand? Many have asked themselves that question quite a lot. She was against gay marriage and now she’s for it. She was in favour of trade deals and now she’s not. Her position have changed through time and in a time where the idea of compromising and change of political positions is almost seen as a betrayal by a polarised party system, a flip-flopper is not a good image for any political brand.

Some suggests that she has no real political backbone and she just swings where the wind blows.

3. Yay for…Hillary? 

Let’s be honest. Millennials who lean Democrat are overwhelmingly in favour of Bernie last I checked. And I suspect that is the case because Hillary is very much establishment! Little enthusiasm can be gathered for a candidate whose husband was President for 8 years and who has always been in the limelight for the majority of the lifetime of many young voters. Doesn’t help that she’s rolling in the millions thanks to speeches and etc.

If Hillary Clinton becomes synonymous with establishment politics, that is a major blow to her campaign. In a election cycle where people are tired of the broken political system, establishment is the last thing a candidate would want to be associated with if she or he is to win the hearts and votes of many who are tired of the same ol’ political circus.

There are positives and negatives to any brand out there. Hillary knows the game and how to play it too, and throughout her time in the public realm she’s been able to come into her own. Whether voters who are not enthusiastic about establishment politicians and are suspicious of a change in positions will buy into the positive aspects of her brand and vote for her we have to see.

So far she’s doing reasonably okay with 1,630 delegates versus Sanders’ 870 as of early today according to Politico.

Hello people! I hope you have enjoyed this belated Political Brands post. What are your thoughts on Hillary Clinton? Love her or hate her and why? Let me know in the comments below!

Join me soon for Part 2 of The Democrats presidential candidates: Bernie Sanders – Protest student turned senator turned POTUS?


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