Jan 10

What car would they drive and what music would be playing on the car radio?”

We usually wrap up our corporate positioning projects by asking internal and external respondents whatCar
an organization might look like if it came to life and, once alive, what car would he/she drive and what music would be playing on the radio. The results help us shape the tone of the subsequent PR campaign (i.e. A response such as “…We’d be Arnold Schwarzenegger driving a Hummer” would dictate a different program tone than, say, “…I see us as Audrey Hepburn tooling around in a Jaguar convertible.”).

So, based upon their images and reputations, I thought I’d adapt the ‘car/music’ game and apply it to the leading presidential candidates. Here goes:

– Hillary Clinton would be wheeling around in a tough, boxy black Volvo. Nothing frilly for Hilly. Just something safe and sturdy that will take her straight to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And, since Sen. Clinton is so dependent upon the female vote (yet insists she doesn’t play the gal card), she’d be listening to Helen Reddy’s ‘I am woman.’

– Barack Obama would be driving a sleek Lexus. Boasting smooth lines, cool handling, and a sweet turning radius, the Obama luxury car’s radio would be tuned to some sort of upscale jazz from Thelonious Monk.

– John Edwards strikes me as a little man who would be most comfortable in a little car. So, let’s place him behind the wheel of a yellow Volkswagen whose speaker system is blasting some Southern rock anthem like ‘Free bird.’

– John McCain is true-blue American and would be driving a midrange Ford or GMC, the type you rent from Hertz and beat the hell out of for the duration of your trip. McCain’s music would be late 1960s and heavily influenced by the Vietnam War. So, I’m guessing it’s Barry McGuire’s ‘Ballad of the green berets.’

– Rudy Giuliani is a one issue candidate whose car reflects his limitations. It’s a huge Chevy Suburban that can only go in one direction, is impervious to dents and nicks and knows that it looked great for one, brief shining moment seven years ago. The music: either Journey’s ‘Eye of the tiger’ or Pat Benatar’s ‘Love is a battlefield.’

– Mitt Romney reeks of conservatism (not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you). So, Mitt’s driving a conservative, family-focused mini van. Like Mitt, the car’s boring and bland, and colored brown. The music would be something like Debbie Boone’s ‘You light up my life.’

– Mike Huckabee strikes me as a real gladhandler who’s warm and fuzzy on the outside, but struggling to control a hair-trigger temper. (In fact, Huckabee’s the candidate I’d pick as most likely to engage in road rage). Huckabee’s zipping around in a Jeep and his radio station is jumping back-and-forth from evangelical, pro-creation anthems to Rush Limbaugh’s latest diatribes.

Projecting a candidate’s car and music of choice is lots of fun. And the nice thing is there is no right or wrong. So tell me what you think. Do you see the candidates differently? If so, what sort of car/music do you envision?

Jan 09

This is very personal for me

Despite her narrow victory in yesterday’s New Hampshire Democratic Primary, can you believe the mediaHillary
analysis of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s ’emotional breakdown’ in New Hampshire? The one in which she told voters ‘…This is very personal to me?’ Puh-lease. Talk about contrived.

Everything Hillary does is carefully orchestrated to either harden or soften her image and reputation (depending upon the latest polls). ‘Hill’ and her handlers knew voters saw her as an ice queen, so she/they sought an opportunity to unveil her ‘softer, feminine side.’ And, a ’60-something’ New Hampshire woman provided the catalyst with a question asking the Machiavellian Clinton how, as a woman, she was able to juggle so many disparate things and still keep it all together.

The Clintons, like the Bushes, are yesterday’s news. Hillary, and her totally contrived image and reputation machinations, is toast. Obama is weak, with lots of flaws, but Americans are turning to him as a solution to the ‘business as usual’ model that Hillary represents. 

I’m not a political analyst but, in my opinion, Sen. Clinton is a ‘dead candidate walking’ who reminds too many voters of what was and not what could be.

Jun 05

Different houses. Same image problem

Two very different women, one already in the ‘big’ house and another one aspiring to the White House, have very different goals but very similar image and reputation problems.

Paris Hilton, serving time for one of her many petty transgressions personifies the vapid, ‘look-at-me-celebrities who populate today’s Paris_2
entertainment landscape. Along with Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears, Hilton rose to the top with little or no talent and even less in the way of social graces. And, yet she seems proudly defiant of, and indifferent to, her less-than-stellar image. And, shame on us, her various transgressions have done little to stem our obsession with her.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, would love us to love her. Yet, despite her best intentions and efforts, she is easily the most polarizing presidential candidate. Ask 10 people about ‘Hill’ and you’ll get 10 very visceral reactions. Love her or hate her, people react to Hillary.

Take, for example, her handlers’ recent efforts to involve the electorate in selecting Clinton’s campaign theme song. Hoping to mimic something a la hubby Bill’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ in 1992, the Hillary web site was, instead, inundated with suggestions like ‘The Bitch is Back’ and ‘Cold as Ice.’

Poor Hillary wants people to believe there’s a warm and compassionate person beneath that glacial countenance. Hilton, on the other hand, has no substance whatsoever below the surface and could care Hillary less what people think.

Hilton’s in her ‘house’ for now and will undoubtedly make many more such visits to similar establishments in her sure-to-be sordid future. Hillary, though, will never overcome her image challenges and convince a majority of Americans to elect her to the highest office.

In their own ways, both women are sad, but fascinating, examples of how image and reputation can mean nothing in one instance, and everything in the other.