Politics and the Art of Rebranding

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This past week, Bernie Sanders took his hat out of the ring and made the inevitable announcement that he was endorsing Hillary Clinton. In what has been a polarizing presidential election thus far, no matter what side of the aisle you are on, Clinton now has an enormous challenge ahead of her: win over the Sanders supporters. Gain their votes. Unite the Democratic party. Win the election. How will she attempt to do that? By rebranding.

As businesses, we hope to not have to go through the rebranding process too many times in a lifetime. If the mission and vision of our company is clearly laid out in a business plan, target markets have been carefully considered, and a respectable amount of effort has been put forth in building strong visuals and a marketing plan, the thought of rebranding on, let’s say, a quarterly basis would be ludicrous.

But politicians—presidential candidates in particular—don’t have the luxury of a lasting brand. The moment Sanders uttered the words “I have come here to make it as clear as possible why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president,” Clinton was on a path to redefining her target audience, and therefore, her platform, her talking points, even her staff—essentially, her entire campaign.

Rebranding is nothing new to Clinton, or anyone who has climbed the ladder to being their party’s presumptive nominee for President. And while Clinton will be spending the next few weeks working hard to change her image in just the right way—she must appease her supporters, while also appealing to Sander’s die-hards—she will do so all the while knowing that she’ll probably be refining her brand from now till November 8th.

Constant rebranding has become a necessity in political campaigns. But in business, playing by those rules would be considered suicide. Changing your message or your business goals over and over will have an audience’s head spinning. Running a successful business isn’t like an election. You aren’t pitted against your competitor in a game of win or go home. You can have a thriving business, and so can the competition. But if you don’t have a thriving business, if you can’t seem to connect with the all-important target market, if your reputation isn’t what you’d hoped it would be, or your marketing isn’t up to par, a rebrand may be your best course of action. It may be time to rethink what you are putting out there, refine your voice, refresh your message, revamp your image.

I’m willing to bet you will see some artful rebranding going on in Clinton’s campaign—and Trump’s campaign—over the next few months. There will be moments of marketing genius and moments of head-shaking absurdity. Which rebrand will be successful? We’ll know on election day. But no matter who wins, if you pay attention, you’ll certainly see the art of rebranding at work.

*Authors Note: This blog post is not an endorsement for any candidate or political party.