What do Taylor Swift and Hillary Clinton have in common?

They've both been on the cover of Vogue. They both made TIME's "100 Most Influential People" list. Oh, and they're both taking pages from the same marketing playbook.

Over the past several months, Hillary Clinton's team has been taking note of Taylor Swift's marketing tactics for her own presidential campaign promotions. That's right: A 67-year-old woman is marketing her campaign to become President of the United States with techniques borrowed from a 25-year-old pop star.

And so far, it's serving its purpose to bring warmth and authenticity to her brand.

How, exactly? Let's take a deeper look into the two main aspects of Taylor Swift's marketing program, how Clinton is adapting them for her presidential campaign, and how her efforts are panning out.

Marketing Play #1: The "Everyman" Persona

While most celebrities' personalities and lifestyles can seem way out of reach for us "normal" folk, both Taylor Swift and Hillary Clinton find ways to relate to their fans and followers using social media.

In Swift's case, she's always pushing the image that she's just one of us, especially through Instagram and Tumblr. While she posts plenty of celebrity-style photos like on-stage concert photos and magazine covers, she intersperses them with photos of her just being normal -- whether she's going for a run or palling around with friends. 

This Instagram video she posted of her attempting to peel jumbo shrimp and then totally burning herself could be any one of us:

How To Peel Jumbo Shrimp That Is Very Very Hot: A Tutorial Featuring @gypsymoonshine

A video posted by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

And then there's this post of hers on Tumblr, in which she responded to a fan's fashion question just as we would one of our friends:


She just doesn't scream "superstar."

Hillary Clinton's been using a similar play. In June, she posted her first ever photo on Instagram: a rolling rack with a variety of pantsuits in red, white, and blue along with the caption: "Hard choices." This was a clever nod to both the name of her book and the contention her pantsuits have been causing since basically forever.

Hard choices.

A photo posted by Hillary Clinton (@hillaryclinton) on

There was also that time Clinton put on dark sunglasses and went to Chipotle. The New York Times headline read, "Hillary Clinton, Just an Unrecognized Burrito Bowl Fan at Chipotle."


Image Credit: New York Times

Clinton has also made her personal interests accessible to fans by creating her own Pinterest page, which features "granddaughter gift ideas, hairstyle inspiration, favorite moments, and some other things," according to her own description.


Marketing Play #2: The "Shock and Aww" Factor

Both Taylor Swift and Hillary Clinton enjoy surprising and delighting their fans with publicity stunts that are a little unconventional -- especially for someone running for President of the United States.

Swift's been known to pull these stunts pretty regularly. This past spring, one of Swift's biggest fans, Katy Harris, planned to get married to her now-husband in the parking lot outside the concert venue in Philadelphia where Swift was performing that same day. Harris posted the unconventional wedding plan to her Instagram account in the hopes it would capture Swift's attention.

It did. And what did Swift do? Crashed their wedding, obviously.

Swift's been known to send surprise gifts to her social media followers, too. Like that time she sent $1,989 to a fan to help her pay off her student loans. Or when she sent a few of her biggest Tumblr fans early Christmas gifts she'd picked up from her travels around the world.

She even invited fans who'd caught her attention on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr over to her house for what she called #1989SecretSessions, an exclusive sneak peak of her album, "1989," which had not yet been released at the time.

Similarly, 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, New Hampshire.

She also shocked (and, in most cases, delighted) fans by adding punny items to the official HillaryClinton.com online store, like the "Chillary Clinton" koozie and the "Grillary Clinton" apron.


Image Credit: Hillary Clinton's Official Online Store

Whether people think these are totally hilarious or totally inappropriate, a lot of them probably shared it.

Are Clinton's Efforts Working?

In Washington Post article from last February, reporters Philip Rucker and Anne Gearan wrote about the marketing team that's worked to revolutionize Clinton's brand in preparation for her presidential campaign.

"Clinton and her image-makers are sketching ways to refresh the well-established brand for tomorrow's marketplace," they wrote.

How? In part by reviving authenticity in her brand.

"In politics, authenticity can be a powerful trait, and it is one that sometimes has escaped Clinton," the article reads. "In her 2008 presidential campaign, despite some raw displays of emotion, she often came across as overly programmed."

When the WaPo article was written, it wasn't clear how Clinton's team -- which includes both Coca-Cola Marketing Executive Wendy Clark and Communications Director for the Obama Campaign Jennifer Palmieri -- would approach the challenge of rebranding her with a fresh image while maintaining her established identity.

Her campaign logo features a right-pointing arrow showing aggressive forward progression. Although that logo was maligned when it first came out, it marks the beginning of her efforts to past her old reputation as cold and emotionless. Instead, her marketing campaigns have very purposefully let her personality shine through.


Image Credit: NPR

The result? Fans (and voters) can relate to her because hey, in the end, she's not so different from them. While Clinton's only just gotten started, Swift's been using this marketing tactic for years -- and her fans love her for it.

It's a little too soon to ascertain how Clinton's new marketing approach will affect performance at the polls. But in the meantime, it's doing exactly what she wants it to do: humanizing her brand and making her a politician of the people.

"Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion," she told the New York Times last April.

Now, if only Representative Dingell can get the two of them in a selfie together...

What do you think of Hillary Clinton's marketing campaigns over the past few months? Share with us in the comments below.

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Originally published Jul 16, 2015 6:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


Marketing Case Studies