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SVA’s Debbie Millman on the Rebranding of Hillary Clinton

From U.S. News & World Report: "'Whether we realize it or not, Hillary has been rebranded many, many times in our culture,' says Debbie Millman, chief marketing officer for the New York City-based Sterling Brand and chairman of the masters in branding program at the School of Visual Arts. Clinton has been able to continue as long as she has, overcoming various scandals and controversies, in large part because she has been able to react herself—all while keeping the common image denominator of 'fighter,' Millman says.

While women in an earlier era might have been reluctant to discuss their family lives, fearing voters would not take them seriously as candidates (Bill and Hillary Clinton decades ago started showing more photos of their daughter, Chelsea, when they learned many people didn't even know they had a daughter), modern female candidates are better off showing their whole selves, experts say. The Democratic National Convention, for example, had personal tributes from both Bill and Chelsea Clinton, who told stories about the candidate as law school girlfriend, soccer mom and loving wife. The Clinton's marriage, of course, is a subject that carries some political risk—Bill Clinton's affairs had some people blaming Hillary Clinton, as well, for not leaving him. But Millman notes that Clinton's popularity grew when she showed a vulnerable side during her campaign in New Hampshire in 2008, when she teared up answering a question about the stresses of the campaign.

'They wanted so badly to see her humanity,' Millman says. To the public, 'she has multiple personalities. That's how starved we are for a crack into her humanity, that is something we saw to be as evidence of the person we were hoping she actually was. I don't know whether it was the crying or just the feeling—that she was feeling something authentically and profoundly.' To sell Clinton as a candidate in November, Millman says, the party needs to 'humanize' her..." (continue reading)

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