Personal Branding: What We Can Learn from Clinton and Trump

MDC Personal branding

Whether you feel passionate about the outcome, or you’re just enjoying the political ride, there’s one thing everyone can appreciate about the American election: the importance of personal branding is on full display. From a trademarked hair style to a wardrobe with extravagant two-piece suits, personal branding is being demonstrated in vivid detail by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as they fight for the United States’ top job.

Here are some of the key lessons that marketers can take from what we’ve seen so far in their respective campaigns.

A Foundation of Values Is Vital

If there are no values or reasons to support it, a brand can crumble to pieces very rapidly. In Clinton and Trump, we are seeing two oppositional approaches to establishing values. While Donald has a succinct broad mission of ‘making America great again’, he lacks concrete specifics as to how this can be achieved. Meanwhile, the values of Hilary’s brand are more considered and broken down logically, yet there’s no summary or 4-word slogan to fall back on.

Key lesson: A successful personal brand needs both a concise statement that embodies your individual values and a detailed, unpacked version of this for colleagues or clients who want more information.

Your Actions Must Reflect Your Brand

There’s at least one thing Clinton and Trump have in common: they both set a brand image for themselves and they’ve both stood by that image steadfastly.

Before running for office, Trump was a self-made, anti-establishment business tycoon who never shied away from the limelight and always spoke his mind. And that’s exactly the character he’s brought to his campaign, portrayed clearly in the recent debates. Every time he says something shocking or unexpected, you have to sit back and wonder, is that really him talking or is he just representing the personal brand that he’s built his campaign around?

Hilary’s campaign revolves around creating a personal brand distinct from the Clinton family history. Her brand identity is centred on being a powerful woman fighting for feminism as well as an experienced government servant with the knowledge and proven track record to succeed. From day one, she has stuck firmly to the message of being the ‘more qualified’ candidate and her behaviour during the debates has reflected this.

Key lesson: The way you act and communicate in professional settings should always be considered. If your attitude or behaviour doesn’t align with the personal brand you’re wanting to create, others will find you inconsistent or ingenuine.

Appearances Are Important

In the world of business, books are often judged by their covers. Your brand needs strong visual representation to make it recognisable and respectable. This comes down to how you present yourself.

Just look at every event, conference and presidential debate of the campaign trail so far and consider the attention and time that has gone into makeup, clothing and hair (real or not!). Clinton and Trump both know their public appearance contributes massively to whether people correlate their brand with potential presidency. Hillary hasn’t been wearing those controversial pantsuits by accident – they were a conscious decision made to accentuate her personal brand.

Key lesson: Presenting well in person – via positive body language and attire – remains important. In today’s digital world, it’s equally necessary to put your best foot forward online (e.g. with a professional photo and full profile on LinkedIn).

Whether you prefer one candidate over the other or you’re not bothered either way, there’s certainly some great insight (and a bit of entertainment) to be gained from following the US presidential campaigns. Ultimately, the test of whose personal brand is the strongest and most relatable will occur when America goes to the polls on November 8.

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