The Impression speaks with our industries leading marketers on takeaways from the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign


BY KENNETH RICHARD

In a fashion world rife with campaigns, none this season has been as discussed, divisive, and disruptive as the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign. While often disheartening, it was a campaign with clear marketing takeaways regarding messaging and medium.

As our industry is in a constant state of campaign mode, The Impression wanted to check in with fashion’s leading campaign champions to hear what marketing takeaways they gleaned over the last six months. Trey Laird, Tony King, Stephen Niedzwiecki, David Lipman, and Kevin Kollenda weighed in on their thoughts on the election.

As for The Impression’s thoughts, we are writing this from abroad, having voted via an absentee ballot due to business travels, and been transfixed to Sky One and BBC for live news updates. The benefit in that is the way the new reports are introduced; with the two words: “United States.” This serves as a reminder that as divided as we may feel at times, we are after all a union. One fortunate enough to elect its leaders with term limits, and have the freedom of speech to critique them while in office.

We too can also campaign; on behalf of causes, rights, and representation. So on behalf of future campaigns of all fashions, we take a moment to listen to the learnings from fashion’s leading campaigners.

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Trey Laird
CEO/Chief Creative Director, Laird + Partners

I believe we are living in an age of disruption across all facets of society, business, culture, media, technology……. and Donald Trump is the ultimate disruptor! Hate him or love him, his message cut through.

– Trey Laird

“His campaign was run in many ways like some the worlds greatest brands. He had a simple & memorable slogan ” Make America Great Again”, that he stuck to throughout. It was a call to action, almost like ” Just Do It”, and his supporters connected emotionally with it immediately. He had iconic symbols that people made their own, like the red baseball cap. It became an instant signal that you were part of a team, a movement.  And ultimately, he personally maintained his own authenticity throughout in both message, tone, style, and behavior. He never tried to be anything other than himself.  Isn’t that a powerful trait of the worlds greatest brands?  I know I try to get brand leaders to understand this point everyday.

Both candidates were incredibly polarizing figures from the start, but somehow his campaign was unlike anything anyone had ever seen in global politics. Ever!

I might not agree with him personally or politically, but I must admit he is a brilliant marketer of his own brand, his own crafted message, and he does it on his own terms. He ignited in his followers a passion and level of engagement rarely seen, and he created an immediately recognizable ” brand” that had a very strong point of view. Sounds a lot like Apple, or Nike, or Google, or any of the worlds strongest brands- and once all the dust settles, the fashion world has a lot to learn from all of this about connectivity, disruption, & relevance.”


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Stephen Niedzwiecki
Chief Creative Officer, YARD

The reason the election results has shocked everyone, no matter who they voted for, is because the polls had it so wrong. A big takeaway is the limitations of data without strong insights. Humans are not just data points we have emotions, contradictory behavior and surprise surprise don’t always tell the truth to pollsters or even ourselves.

– Stephen Niedzwiecki

Love or hate Trump you can’t ignore him. He didn’t get all that attention by being boring. He had a clear, consistent message that was memorable. He hammered it home. He took on a cultural fight, albeit an abhorrent one, and had a clear nemesis in The Establishment. Politics aside, from a purely brand behavior perspective these are all essential elements of powerful brands.

The brand of America is very much based on the perception that the American Dream is alive and well and that our values of optimism, individuality and freedom prevail. Clearly with Trump elected this is all in question. American brands will have to work hard to show the world through their unique brand lens that these values are still thriving.

The worst part of this election is that is has stirred up anger and intolerance that we haven’t seen in our lifetime. It has emboldened an undercurrent of these people to come out from behind their computers into the physical world. As marketers we have a responsibility to help drown out their voices and stamp out their actions.”


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Tony King
CEO/Creative Director, King & Partners

“I think we have a few key takeaways here, but just as an FYI If I was able to vote then I would of voted for Hillary.

First of all, Trump’s brand proposition was incredibly simple – “Make America Great Again,” this obviously resonated with customers, in this case voters, and it gave them a feeling of nostalgia. He hid his lack of policies behind this simple statement, and America lapped it up.

Secondly, he came into the election as a disruptor, he disrupted the political system. He is the complete opposite to the status quo – he put himself forward as the answer to everyones problems and their votes reflected that. People wanted change, he represented that.

I feel like we have a lot to learn around listening to the audience. People were pretty confident about Hillary winning, but that’s because we were listening to those around us, those in NYC, or California, but there’s a whole lot of people in between those places that Hilary wasn’t marketing too correctly, an audience that had feelings about where America was at and wanted change. Brands can learn from this, don’t just market to who you want your audience to be, market to who the audience really is.

– Tony King

“I see this all the time with digital marketing around fashion brands, targeting the demographic they think wear their clothes when in fact it’s a totally different demographic.”


davidlipman-600pxDavid Lipman
Lipman Studio

“This summer I rented a camper and took my two children and dog for a trip across America. We only had two plans – make it to California and stop in Pittsburgh to go to the Warhol Museum.

It was clear to me that once we hit Pennsylvania; we were in Trump Country. This continued throughout the journey…Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, and so on…”THE HEART OF AMERICA”…there was one cry louder than everything else and it was an old school advertising slogan “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”…and wow, it resonated to millions. Trump’s team was effective to its demographic…old school communications….ahhhh, but that didn’t win the election….the Clinton Camp had their slogan “STRONGER TOGETHER’ and this resonated to millions…it was equally effective….So, is it true that the polls were wrong or is it true that (as Trump continually said) the polls didn’t poll Trumps’ voters? Well, I think it’s correct to say the system of research and communications has changed, and everything as we know it, is not as we know it anymore…. but this is not what won or lost the election.”

What lost the election for Clinton and won the election for Trump was the lack of engagement by millennials…the Bernie loss was HUUUUGE….when Bernie lost, the millennials dialed out and Clinton never dialed them back in….she tried to communicate but failed miserably – this is a generation that you can’t dictate the conversation…you have to include them into the conversation and make sure the conversation is what they strongly believe in.

– David Lipman

“If you don’t hit a cord with them you lose them…if you hit a nerve with them it spreads like wildfire….Bernie was the poster child for all of this…I don’t know if Bernie intentionally tried to speak to millennials or if what he stood for hit a nerve that this generation truly believed in….Clinton didn’t give enough credence to the power of the Bernie factor and in fact, if you look at how many Bernie states she lost to Trump, it all lies there…the millennials didn’t come out and vote and today Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America.”


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Kevin Kollenda
CEO/Co-Founder, Two Hustlers

“This election was a product of the superficial times we live in – a manifestation of humanity’s overly solipsistic behavior – believing celebs, influencers and their followers opinions and likes actually equaled votes.

Typically (and unfortunately) the fashion community concentrated on their own communities, and no one ever stopped to ask why those of us living in the glass clad cities see the world so differently from those in the wind swept plains.

But someone did, marketing the brilliant slogan ‘Make America Great Again’.

Like McDonald’s hugely irritating and crowd pleasing ‘I’m loving It’, KFC’s “Finger-lickin good” and Burger King’s “Have it your Way,” the Trump camp talked the talk and stayed focus on the prize – serving up easily digestable sound bites to a voracious mass audience.

- Kevin Kollenda

All the social might of Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kanye, the Kardashians, Anna Wintour and the all the super models and their combined 100 million followers didn’t matter in the end.

The vote mattered, and a lot of the Gen Y and Z somehow confused popularity with action – and forgot to or did not vote.

Now it’s time to be a patriot again, and learn to fight for what you believe in. I think our forefathers would be horrified by what we’ve become. They fought for freedom. We’re fighting for more followers, likes, and opinions!

I’m beyond bummed Hillary didn’t make it, but I’m more alert, more empowered and ready to do the work to tell my government what I think is ‘finger lickin good’!”