Bill Clinton, Brand Manager.

17th November 2014

The old dog has not forgot his old, winning tricks.

Unlike George W. Bush, who is busy still-life painting in Crawford, Texas, Bill Clinton was not seduced into a life of leisure (golfing, one suspects, would have been his thing) after leaving office in 2000.

I have been watching him talk some days back to a group of the converted, about the Democrats’ drubbing in the November 2014 mid-terms.

My first focus was on the man himself: how frail he seems, how his loose-fitting jacket seems a proxy for his flagging health, how croaky his voice.

Most of the ‘data’ I was receiving suggested that he was quite exhausted, and might benefit from taking to the putting greens. Until I bothered to listen to what he was actually saying.

‘Measuring the psychic landscape of America has always been a challenge…and that’s probably a good thing’.

Clinton had just given cogent account of how the Democrats’ strategic planning had failed in the campaign.

What was striking was the manner of his analyses: forensic. Often by state, by race, and by candidate, he expanded upon his meta-theme: that voters have different communication needs at the beginning and at the end of campaigns. He concluded that candidates would be well served to pace their investments and messaging accordingly.

Politics, practiced correctly, is the masterful execution of tactics informed by strategy. It occurred to me that, for all the world, Clinton was doing the job of a brand manager. A rather senior and experienced brand manager.

That a man so long at the top has understood the detailed mechanisms by which his party both wins and loses is somehow inspirational. He is committed not only to broad brush vision; he can get down and dirty too.

It’s easy to get so caught up in running a business, that one can forget to stand back and figure out what exactly IS happening in the detail, and to fully own that explanation.

Bill Clinton’s comments are a reminder that true leadership lies not only in the visionary blue sky thinking, but also in the long-grass. Even the most celebrated golfer is responsible for walking into the rough, and retrieving his own ball.
© Brian McIntyre. 2014

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