Your Brand Attached to Another: Kellyanne Conway's Debacle
Kellyanne Conway was a pollster until Trump put her center stage in August, when he got rid of the Kremlin guy. She was considered a strong pollster, and she clearly has a quick wit. You can see her thinking really fast when any question is asked of her—not answering the question, but rather spinning her way to some other message she thinks will help her guy. And she has covered herself by making some public comments that will give her a bit of distance from him should he fall off the wall next week like Humpty Dumpty, shattering into a million pieces that even the king won't be able to put back together again.
My favorite of her comments is the one about treating The D like a child and making sure he thinks everything she wants is his idea. It must be exhausting.
In another life, my company hired Her Royal Highness, Princess Michael of Kent to promote our website. When I met with her, I was told I should end every sentence with “your royal highness.” I'm an ADD girl, and having to tag that onto every sentence made me crazy, so finally I said, “Princess Michael, my people won the war and you are on my turf. Is it okay if I drop the “your royal highness” at the end of sentences? It's not working for me." She smiled sweetly, gave me a steely kind of gaze, and touched my arm. I never said it again.
So, Ms. Kellyanne not only has to come up with fabulous, creative, workable initiatives to get him over the finish line, but she also has to end every sentence with, “your royal smarter-than-everyone man of the hour.” I'm sure that's why she has such dark circles under her eyes.
Here is my favorite, from an article in the Washington Post. The article links to an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash in which Kellyanne describes how she fights with him:
BASH: So, give me an example. I’m Donald Trump and you're Kellyanne Conway, and I say something that really makes you mad at my rally.
CONWAY: I told him yesterday, on the plane, "You and I are going to fight for the next 17 days." And he said, "Why?" And I said, "Because I know you're going to win. And that comment you just made sounds like you think you're going to lose. And we're going to argue about it until you win."
BASH: And what's his response?
CONWAY: He’s like, "Okay, honey, then we'll win."
That's a female technique around men. Don't fight him head on; build up his ego and then go in for the kill. Smart men know when it's being done to them, and they look at you sideways and call you on it. But men like Trump eat it up. Really, though, it speaks volumes about her, not him. Is this really the way to win in politics? I don't think so.
What the hell does this have to do with Blue Shoe Strategy, you are asking?
There is much debate about Kellyanne's future after Trump. I know Hillary supporters who say she is brilliant and has a huge future. I disagree, and this is where it's about branding.
Kellyanne had no public brand before Trump, and now her entire persona is centered on him—being his voice, manipulating and badgering. (I should use the term bullying here, as that's what she is doing when she accuses interviewers of having a bias toward Hillary, but she's a sista, so I'll go with badgering.) I think her career as a speaker for candidates is dead. No one is going to want a reminder of the Trump wars of 2016 representing them. They will be afraid that it will rub off on them.
Now, if she wants to become a pundit on Fox, that could work for her. Or if DT (I'm done writing his name) starts a media company, I'm sure there will be a place for her. But as for her own brand? It's now soldered to his more firmly than a marriage commitment.
The lesson? Do not make your client's brand your brand unless you can really believe in it. It will follow you around forever.