Like everybody else in the United States (and probably everybody from every other country), I’m ready for the 2016 presidential election campaign to be over.
But before we extinguish this Dumpster fire of a campaign, let’s take a look at some of the lessons it brings to those of us in the branding and marketing business.
Rob Shepardson, a partner and co-founder of SS&K M&C Saatchi who worked on President Obama’s outreach to young voters in 2008 and 2012, offers some good insights in his article, Disrupting the disruptors: Brand lessons from the US presidential campaign. Shepardson argues that Hillary Clinton’s strategies against two disruptor candidates — first, Bernie Sanders, then Donald Trump — offer lessons for establishment brands. I consider most colleges and universities to fall into the establishment category, so perhaps we can learn something, too.
Sanders and Trump both “exploited the technological, demographic, cultural and economic changes that continue to buffet and divide us,” Shepardson writes, adding: “The populist surge was so powerful that the most-prepared presidential candidate in history might have lost to the least-prepared, unimaginably buffoonish and criminally offensive candidate in history. In other words, perfect conditions for disrupting the status quo.”
Building a college or university brand is nowhere near as rancorous as presidential politics — thank goodness. As Shepardson notes, “Drawing lessons from a presidential race is tricky. It is arguably the most competitive, unrelenting, multi-faceted and consequential campaign imaginable.”
The stakes may be less for us. “But genuine disruption is everyone’s reality,” Shepardson writes.
Disruption has been threatening higher education for years now. It is only a matter of time before the fissures in our social structure ripple further into the fabric of our academic institutions. Take a lesson or two from the campaign, and be prepared.
Now, enough of politics. Who’s ready for Thanksgiving?