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Clinton Versus Trump: a Battle of the Brands

Want to know how Trump and Clinton plan to woo you to their camps? Learn the promises behind the two candidates’ personal brands.
by Erik Niklasson | Oct 17 2016

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

When Donald Trump announced he would be running for president in January 2015 few thought he would last long. To the chagrin of his detractors and the embarrassment of the pundits, he not only stayed in the race but eventually became the presidential candidate of the Republican Party.

How did he do it? Whatever else you think might have played a part, there can be no question that Trump’s rise is a masterpiece of personal branding, the practice of packaging and marketing oneself as a brand.

As impressive as Trump’s rise may have been so far, however, he’s up against not only an experienced political veteran, but against a radically different image of America. When Hillary finally announced her candidacy in April 2015, a massive PR machine was ready to start pumping out her personal brand‚ one built on radically different ideas about what America should be.

But of what do their brands actually consist, and what are the promises they’re making to America? Let’s have a closer look at their brands and the landscape in which each candidate has positioned themselves.

Contestant #1: Donald Trump

In his book, Crippled America, Trump paints a picture of an America heading in the wrong direction; suffering from mass immigration, lagging behind in the world economy and losing the war on global terrorism. Just like any successful brand, from Apple to Airbnb to Uber to Wendy’s, Trump understands how he fits into the current political and cultural landscape and has used this knowledge to create an appealing brand of himself as the strong man to help his beloved country up on its feet again—to make America great again. Here’s a breakdown of Trump’s brand.

The truth-telling underdog
Despite his massive popularity, an important part of Trump’s brand is still that of an underdog; a truth-teller in an America where the media is biased and the incompetent establishment is hiding the truth from the people. When criticised for statements in the media that his opponents claim are racist, sexist or even violence-inciting, Trump often claims that the media has failed to put it into context or blown it out of proportion. By presenting himself as an underdog in this way, he can get away with things that no other politician would. To those who feel disconnected from the government and those in power this is an appealing facet of Trump’s brand.

The business-savvy realist
What Trump may lack in terms of political experience, he amply makes up for by being one of America’s best known businessmen. To many Americans, the name Trump is synonymous with success. Trump leans on his business acumen to improve his standing in any issue. For instance, when discussing the growing role of China in the world economy, Trump cites his knowledge of the topic not through political experience, but rather through his extensive business relationships with the Chinese. His enormous success in business, his proponents claim, show that he has the necessary skills to guide the United States. In the run-up to the election you can be sure Trump will make consistent reference to his business acumen.

The fierce defender of America
If there is one thing that gets many Americans’ blood boiling it’s the war on global terrorism. Trump is definitely one of the fiercest defenders, and he takes every opportunity to say so and to present himself as a stern commander that can get tough where Obama has been weak. If he’s elected president Trump claims he would not only increase the military budget but he would make sure America instills fear in her enemies.

Contestant #2: Hillary Clinton

The America painted in Clinton’s biography Hard Choices, is a far cry from Trump’s bleak picture. According to Clinton, the United States has improved much from the terrible state it was in after George Bush left the White House in 2009. But that doesn’t mean everything’s fine. There are many problems that need fixing; jobs need to be created, ISIS needs to be fought, racial and gender equality needs to be ensured for all Americans. And this is where Hillary comes in:

The experienced politician
Unlike Trump, Clinton has a long track record in politics, from being the first New York woman elected to the U.S Senate in 2001, to her four years as Secretary of State under Obama between 2009 and 2013. According to her proponents, she is simply the most qualified candidate to take the most important office in the world. This eminent preparedness is a cornerstone of her personal brand.

The level-headed diplomat
Where Trump wants the US to stop being nice and use force, Clinton argues for the importance of diplomacy and keeping a cool head to ensure good relations and to fight the global war on terrorism. To ensure the US remains a respected world power Clinton will honor formed alliances and find pragmatic solutions to problems. During her time as Secretary of State she has learned the ins and outs of a complicated world of international diplomacy.

The defender of unity and equal rights
Where Trump speaks about tougher border controls and keeping unwanted elements out of the U.S, pitting one group against another, Clinton’s personal brand is built on the idea of togetherness and everyone’s equal rights, whether you’re an undocumented Mexican immigrant or an African American growing up in an America still struggling with racism and inequality. The title of her and her VP Tim Kaine’s new book says it all: Stronger Together. Another important part of her brand, which clearly differentiates her from Trump, is of course that she is a woman. If she’s elected president, Clinton says she’ll fight for women’s rights across the world.

This is not the whole story of course, but as you consume media coverage of the two candidates, you’ll see the brands behind the messages they’se selling and be in a better position to understand just how they leverage these brand “promises” in order to sell their candidacy. If you want to know more about Trump and Clinton and what they can bring to American politics, make sure to read or listen to the blinks for Crippled America and Hard Choices.

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