Personal Branding

Election 2016 | Brands, authenticity, connection…Why Hillary lost.


And just like that, the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election ends with a thud on the glass ceiling in Javits Center.  So many discussions on what went wrong.

What’s guaranteed every election cycle is that one side will walk away sad, distraught, even devastated… but there is one more guarantee.

The winning side does two things better than the losing side almost always…

They’re authentic , they create a connection on issues that are important to key segments of the population that lead to the outcome of the vote. These two ingredients together usually lead to a movement.

Movements are so much more powerful than a campaign (just look at Obama 2008). Lightning in a bottle. This year, Donald Trump caught it. He leveraged his no-nonsense reality star persona, a growing populist sentiment and the public’s massive distrust of establishment players in the government.

Say what you will about Donald Trump… despite the negative news coverage, he was relentlessly focussed on what he stood for…

  1. An alternative to today’s ‘corrupt’ politicians who’ve had decades behind the wheel,
  2. Appealing to people who felt the economy and government had left them behind and
  3. Getting those people riled up to vote and making it hard to ‘rig’ the election.

Point is, he was authentic and unapologetically himself (some say crazy, but we think masterful in the way he manipulated the press to get a ton of airtime for free).  90% of communication and persuasion in the way you carry yourself.  He carries himself consistently as a wildcard.

Hillary on the other hand is probably one of the most qualified candidates ever to run for the role of President of the United States.  But she came across as untrustworthy (trying to be trustworthy and fumbling over and over again…and really coming across as un-authentic).  Quite literally her message was akin to the shady used-car salesman that tells you to trust him.  People can point to Comey, Assange, WikiLeaks, Putin, Anthony Weiner (people should point at him what a dick),  but at the end of the day being seen as unauthentic and untrustworthy in a time when people’s trust of government is at an all-time low is what really sunk her. Unfortunately, the way team Hillary handled the emails, Clinton Foundation allegations etc. further fueled the perception of untrustworthiness.  They played right into the Donald’s hands.

From those who work closely with her, she is known to be a passionate and dedicated public servant, yet that did not shine through this election cycle. Most people would agree that she’s a badass with brass testes and an unmatched record of service to her country. Tough woman.

Donald Trump took her greatest strength (her vast experience advantage) and turned it into her greatest weakness… that’s some next level Sun Tzu The Art of War stuff.  He also knew exactly who he was and what he needed to do to get media attention, and he did not waiver.  He probably drove his campaign team crazy, but he intuitively, masterfully understood his audience.

Bernie Sanders for a while was truly authentic.  People may not agree with his policy views and actual substance, but obviously as seen with Trump in this election cycle that didn’t really matter as much.

The election is a harsh reminder that even in this age of ground game, targeted paid advertising, huge media spends etc.,  brand, authenticity and connection trumps all.


Personal Branding | Interesting Article Elle Magazine

This article in Elle Magazine by Charlotte Cho captures the fundamentals of having a great personal brand. One thing I would add to it is that Your Brand is the intersection of all the things you do to support what you want people to think of you as, and what they actually think of you.

Recap of key points:

  1. Do work that excites you
  2. Be yourself
  3. Give give give
  4. Gather Praise
  5. Make sure your brand is consistent

Pick visual elements & language that fits 1-5.