Reframing the Hillary brand debate

We were asked by Fast Company to create a hypothetical new brand for Hillary Clinton.

With only five days to deliver, and without access to Hillary, we knew we couldn’t create something with the same thinking and craft we would ordinarily strive for. Instead, we chose to apply a branding sprint model, to see how far we could push our process in a week.

Here’s our approach, and our resultant take on the Hillary campaign.

1/ Get to know your client

The process of defining a brand involves face-to-face interviews and workshops with key stakeholders to get to know them, and to get to the core truths and aspirations at the heart of an organization. It’s intensive, hands-on and highly collaborative. Obviously, that wasn’t an option in this case, so we immersed ourselves in Hillary’s world — her interviews, essays, and speeches, as well as media analysis of her team instead.

2/ Research, question and form a point of view

Our exploration raised questions that yielded invaluable insights.

We asked ourselves what is unique about Hillary?

  • Hillary has more personal brand equity than any other candidate.
    (We’re already on a first name basis.)
  • The prominence and unusual spelling of her name puts her above and beyond any other candidate’s presence online.
  • While the name Clinton is synonymous with the White House, people identify “Hillary” with her evolution from First Lady to Senator, Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate.
  • She has lived decades in the spotlight. This means her face is instantly recognizable, is real and relatable, and therefore has equity.
  • As the favorite, she does not need to pander to her democratic base or try to win over the far right — Hillary is uniquely positioned to meet America in the middle.
  • Her positions on most hot-button issues are well known, meaning she’s free to focus on the real issues affecting the vast majority.
  • She’s a lifelong public servant and advocate for equality.
  • She’s way past caring about how she’s portrayed by the media.

3/ Define the brand story

The way we approach brand always starts with story. A good brand story is authentic, engaging and distinct. It’s not about “what” the brand does or “how” it does it. To resonate and connect on an emotional level, a brand story has to be all about the “why” — why Hillary, why now, and more importantly, why should anyone care?

Based on the insights we’d formed, we set about writing Hillary Clinton’s brand story.

4/ Decide on a recognizable name

The name ‘Hillary’ is more recognizable and holds more equity than any symbol ever could. An ‘H’ glyph is visually appealing — but it’s not as ownable as the Hillary name.

5/ Select a typeface to express the brand character

The bold and declarative uppercase wordmark capitalizes on Hillary’s name recognition and captures the dichotomy of her character with approachable, rounded geometric shapes juxtaposed with hard cuts and strong edges.

6/ Use colors that reflect time and place

Red, white and blue have been standard issue for political branding for as far back as we could research (and as an aside, blue and red are also the most common colors used in corporate identities). We updated and expanded the palette to a more sophisticated range of colors. The results feel warm, optimistic and highly differentiated from the rest of the race.

7/ Be authentic with photography

To complement a story based on facing the reality of American life, we selected naturally beautiful photographs that feel authentic but not gritty, posed but not staged. We wanted to capture people in the moment, grounded in reality. They feel optimistic without pandering or trying too hard.

8/ Create compositions that bring messages and images together

The core idea of the system is to reframe the political conversation in the middle, on common ground, to make real progress on the issues that are really affecting the majority of Americans. The “The H-Frame” is a visual framing system created using an abstracted “H”. It’s a recognizable and unifying device for organizing, highlighting and presenting information.

9/ Bring it all together for the moving world

The result is an ownable system, which allows Hillary to communicate with her audience of millions on the road, on our screens, on stage and in print. It’s not a logo or a badge, but a brand that reframes the conversation around the future of America, why Hillary is running for President and why we should care.

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