Sixty years after Richard Nixon lost the first televised presidential debate to a television-ready John F. Kennedy, one fact remains—branding is everything. From Facebook to Twitter to Tinder, personal branding on social media is key.
Today's millennials have been conditioned through social media to equate likes and followers with success. The youth of today have a lifetime's practice honing their social media profiles to perfection. Countless YouTubers have been "discovered" when their posts have gone viral. All one needs to become an Internet sensation, it seems, is an image that is aesthetically pleasing, a unique individualism displayed across posts, and an interesting bio. This is a formula that especially applies when mounting a presidential campaign.
Tinder is a great example of this phenomenon. The dating app uses your location and your online profile to suggest people you might be interested in, based on common interests. It relies heavily on the first few seconds someone sees your profile which ultimately determines whether they swipe left to pass or swipe right to indicate they are interested in seeing more of your profile. In essence, you are being asked to like someone based on a snapshot of their brand.
After swiping right, the true test of one's brand begins. Bios must go beyond personal statistics like height, weight, and profession, and focus on one's humanity, individuality, and cleverness. Those whose confidence is able to transcend the screen with respect to their uniqueness and ability to be clever are more likely to "get the girl" (or boy).
Tactics people use to get swipe-rights are no different than those used in the presidential campaign to get votes. First impressions matter--be it for a product, social media profile, or presidential candidate—as they help establish a successful connection. A candidate's appearance might get him or her noticed, but without an interesting bio emphasizing one's unique appeal, getting noticed might not necessarily lead to getting a vote.
Though Hillary Clinton has won a presumptive nomination, her branding tactics have not struck a chord with the younger generation. For millennials, focusing on one's resume and qualifications, according to Journalist Amy Webb, does not count as much as focusing on one's qualifications as a living, breathing, interesting and unique personality. In other words, today's youth seem to be applying the same criteria they use on social media and dating apps to the candidates in the presidential election, which may be where Clinton comes up short.
Her logo—an H with an arrow through it—is visually attractive and oozing symbolic meaning with respect to the changes she is able to make to forge a better future. Clinton's personal aesthetic, the quality upon which most first impressions are based, has recently changed with the hope of building a better brand. Gone are the neutral colors with the odd addition of red, white, or blue. Instead, she now wears brighter colors to enhance her complexion, making her appear warmer and brighter than during her last candidacy. The hope is that we see her as warmer and brighter than cold and neutral as a result.
Clinton's first impressions might persuade voters to swipe right, but if she doesn't follow through with her humanity, showing us that she's an interesting individual in her bio, it will ultimately cost her votes. Though this may seem counter-intuitive—she wants to be the next president, not our BFF—nevertheless, our judgment of people based on first impressions seems to be universally ingrained in our psyche.
Campaign slogans, akin to brief Tinder bios, help to gauge first impressions as well. Slogans rife with positive words help the populace see the candidate in an equally positive light. Candidates with a message that is uplifting and hopeful help the public see him or her in an equally uplifting and hopeful light.
An inspired, patriotic, hopeful campaign slogan may have tipped the scales in Obama's favor when Clinton last ran for president. His slogan, "Change we can believe in" struck a chord with voters unhappy with the status quo, who felt it was time for change. It was enough to win Obama the race with a majority vote.
By contrast, Clinton's slogan is "Fighting for us," which shows her heart is in the right place, and that she identifies with her constituents, even if her choice of words is unfortunate. The use of the word "fight" connotes the negative, someone who is confrontational. Also, the fact that her campaign has shifted focus with her slogan numerous times makes her seem unsure of who she is.
One of her slogans, "I'm with her," is a play on words, implying that not only does she support women, but that women support her. That she is a woman who supports women's rights is a deciding factor for some, but a nail in the coffin for others. For Clinton, her gender has become inseparable from her brand, which has never been the case with male candidates, and might wind up working to her detriment. Stereotypical labels, such as "bitch" or "bossy" have been used to describe her, as they often are with strong and powerful women, for no other reason than that they are strong and powerful.
Being mislabeled by the public based on gender alone, having an agenda that's all business (and no fun), and ambiguous campaign slogans, may sway many millennials to swipe left where Hillary is concerned.
Rather than cold, Hillary Clinton should come across as passionate. Rather than being perceived as wishy-washy, Clintons ever-shifting slogans should be seen as a way to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Her all-business bio should signify that the former professor, secretary of state, and senator is more than qualified for the job. Her history as a lawyer and activist should indicate she's willing to go to bat for issues she's passionate about. Hillary's bio is that of a serious person who is ready to take on the serious job of President of the United States and to approach it seriously. Though Trump and Sanders' bios might be ready for Tinder, they do not indicate the bio of someone who is ready for America.
As crazy as it seems, comparing effective branding tactics of presidential candidates to Tinder profiles is important, as it's what gets the attention of the millennial generation. The sooner established businesses, and yes, presidential candidates, jump on the social media branding bandwagon, the more successful they will be.