If the 2016 presidential campaign has revealed a new side of Hillary Clinton, one that eschews rigid speeches for witty tweets, it may be because the 67-year-old presidential hopeful is taking advice from 25-year-old pop star Taylor Swift.
While Mrs. Clinton, who has undergone a sophisticated rebranding led by Coca-Cola marketing executive Wendy Clark, probably isn't looking to Ms. Swift for sartorial or romantic advice, according to the marketing company HubSpot, her team is borrowing tactics from the pop sensation's marketing strategy, which even PR pros call brilliant.
At the core of the matter for Clinton is boosting authenticity, a key trait for many modern politicians, and one that the candidate, who has been described as "overly programmed," has sometimes lacked.
Enter Taylor Swift, the singer-songwriter who's known for crashing fans' weddings, Instagramming images of Friday evenings on the couch with her cat, and maintaining a girl-next-door image despite her celebrity and success.
What, exactly, can the former first lady, senator, secretary of State, and presidential contender, learn from a pop star less than half her age? Plenty.
Show your everyman side
Clinton and Swift both have multiple homes, millions in their bank accounts, Vogue covers, and instantly recognizable names. Which is why they also work doubly hard to relate to their followers. Swift does this by posting photos to social media of the mundane moments in her life – going for a run, hanging out with her cat on the couch, burning her fingers peeling jumbo shrimp.
It's a lesson Clinton has taken to heart. Her very campaign theme is being a champion for "everyday Americans." She's demonstrated her everyman cred with her well-publicized Scooby van roadtrip and pit stops at a Pilot gas station and Chipotle – where her "everyman" image worked so well she went unnoticed – along with clever tweets and glimpses into her life and wardrobe via brand new Instagram and Pinterest accounts.
Don't take yourself too seriously
It's the foible of many high-achievers, like Clinton. Swift is a master at not appearing to take herself too seriously. Her public vulnerabilities – like her string of romantic failures and being insulted by Kanye West at an awards show – help, as does her self-deprecating humor.
Watching tv with my cat while eating Toy Story fruit snacks. So basically I'm 80 and 5 at the same time.— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) January 30, 2012
This is where Hillary has shined in recent months. Her Twitter bio describes her as "...FLOTUS, Senator, SecState, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado..." And her campaign store is an homage to Hillary-themed wit: Consider the "Everyday Pantsuit Tee," a red T-shirt with a screen-printed suit, pearls, and Hillary pin on the front; the pint glass with the words “made from 100% shattered glass ceiling"; and the throw pillow, with the phrase “A Woman’s Place is in the White House” cross-stitched on it.
"One of the most unique strategies from Taylor Swift’s approach to social media is her ability to create anticipation prior to the launch of an album or the release of a single," said an article from a University of Sydney social media communication class.
Swift has been known to use social media to give clues about a new release, throw pre-release parties for fans, and make the rounds in traditional media to tease her latest album, single, or movie.
Clinton appears to have taken note. She had perhaps the longest buildup and the most anticipated campaign launch announcement in recent history, one that, after months of coy dismissals and sly suggestions, needed little teasing or promotion.
Unconventional publicity stunts
As a blog post on HubSpot's website points out, both Swift and Clinton enjoy making unexpected appearances and surprising fans and followers. Swift once crashed a fan's wedding, sent $1,989 to help another with student loans, and sent others surprise Christmas gifts.
In addition to surprise stops at Chipotle, Clinton made headlines a few weeks ago when she signed a get-out-of-school note so a 9-year-old boy could meet her at a launch event in Concord, N.H., the HubSpot post noted.
If, as the Washington Post pointed out earlier this year, this campaign is about finding "imaginative ways to 'let Hillary be Hillary,' she's come a long way.
While there's room for improvement – Clinton has more to learn from Swift on engaging with followers, for example – she's far from the tough-as-nails Margaret Thatcher-like image she projected in 2008.
All, reportedly, thanks to Taylor Swift.