I remember the ’92 election like it was yesterday. Well, ok, not really. I was in kindergarten, and back then Saturday morning cartoons occupied more of my time than the Sunday news shows. What I do recall from growing up in the ‘90s is that the Clinton machine became a larger-than-life brand that dominated public interest and debate for the better part of the decade in which they held the White House.
The presidential announcement from Hillary thrusts the Clintons back into the spotlight and sets the stage for a year-and-a-half long relaunch of the Clinton brand as they attempt to battle their way back to the Oval Office. This campaign will be anything but easy, as a fierce pack of GOP foes are prepared to berate every blemish on her decades-long record. If Clinton is to survive this onslaught and move back to her old digs in 2017, she will need to successfully revive the Clinton brand and position it favorably among a new breed of voters.
Harness the Power of Nostalgia
With all of the baggage attached to the Clinton brand, from Lewinsky to email-gate, they still represent an era of economic prosperity that has been unmatched in the post-Clinton White House. Bill Clinton’s balanced budget turned into a record deficit under his successor, topped off by an economic collapse that marked the end of the tumultuous Bush years. As the Obama White House wraps up its painfully slow recovery measures, Hillary Clinton would be best served to remind voters how good things really were in the ‘90s.
Hollywood has already proved that nostalgia can make for a winning strategy. Last year Dumb and Dumber To, a two-decade-later sequel to the 1994 cult comedy, grossed $86.2M at the box office. And Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which unapologetically served as a brand reboot rather than a serious film, brought in a whopping $191M. In comparison, the year’s Best Picture winner, Birdman, netted a pedestrian $42.3M.
Let’s face it – everyone loves the ‘90s, and Hillary should leverage those fond memories on the campaign trail every chance she gets. I want to hear the “Full House” theme song at her rallies. I want to see public endorsements from Freddie Prinze Jr., Alanis Morissette and Penny Hardaway (admit it – the Little Penny Nike commercials were amazing). Clinton cannot possibly hide from her past, so it is crucial for her to embrace it and frame it in her favor as she fights her way back to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Adapt to New Media and Technology
Hillary learned a tough lesson during the 2008 primaries – ‘90s campaign tactics don’t work in a new media environment. Candidate Obama revolutionized the use of social networking and digital media in fundraising and generating grassroots support. Hillary’s digital efforts, and campaign in general, failed to connect with young voters, who overwhelmingly flocked to Obama in both the Democratic primary and general election.
The nature of Sunday’s announcement is a powerful indication that she won’t make the same mistake twice. That announcement came in the form of a YouTube video that instantly went viral on social media. Early indicators show that the youth vote is hers to lose this time around. Here’s how she fairs against potential GOP foes among voters age 18 – 39 (via Quinnipiac Poll):
Clinton 63, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush 30
Clinton 67, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz 26
Clinton 66, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio 26
Expect an all out digital onslaught from Clinton as she clings to her early youth support. Can she do it? Possibly. She squashed any doubts I had about her digital chops with her previous (and brilliant) Twitter bio:
Don’t Sell a Product, Sell a Vision
This brand revival will fall flat if Hillary fails to connect with voters on an emotional level. I see it all the time with brands – they end up spinning their wheels promoting what they do and how long they’ve been doing it. That lame approach won’t work for Hillary, either. She needs a clear vision that resonates beyond her own base. If she wants to win this thing and become America’s first female president, she needs to convince swing voters that she is doing this for them and not just for Hillary Clinton. They key to a successful campaign is focusing on the “why” over the “what.”
If her announcement video is a preview of that vision, she’s on the right track. The video focuses on the people she wants to represent rather than on herself. She doesn’t even appear until the 1:30 mark of this 2:18 long video. It appears she realizes that the Clinton machine will run out of gas long before Election Day if it duplicates the smug, predictable campaign she ran in 2008. To successfully sell her candidacy to voters, her campaign will need to take risks and unleash the full power of the Clinton brand of the ‘90s.
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