The Innovation Blog

What Hillary Clinton & Tom Brady can teach us about brand engagement

Posted by Jay Terwilliger on August 20, 2015




 I’ll admit that I’m a big fan of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and not such a fan of Hillary Clinton. But regardless of whether or not you like or believe them, I’m struck by how similar their current situations are.

 For each, there is a core issue that is based on the possibility of wrongdoing, compounded by a secondary issue that is remarkably similar for both.  Both resisted turning over digital records – emails, texts, etc., that would either prove their innocence or their guilt.  For each, the current debate is less about whether there was any actual wrong committed in the first place, and more about their reluctance to turn over these digital records.  Also interestingly, for both, not wanting to “set precedent” is involved.  While this is important to their situations, for the general public, it’s an excuse and a side issue.

 Our collective tendency to have difficulty trusting and our basic belief that  “Where there is smoke, there is fire” is what is whipping up much of the debate. We all want to know. We all believe we should have the right to know, and if you are not sharing openly, then you must be hiding something. So whether we like you or not, whether we believe you or not, our ability to fully trust you is affected.

 Which brings us to the lesson for brands in today’s world. Transparency.  Trust is a delicate thing.  With the internet, social media, and instantaneous search engines, the “truth” or what people believe it to be is instantly available and continually manipulated.  It’s hard to know what to believe and who to trust.  So if you are not open, honest and consistent with your messages, consumers will lose trust in your brand.  

 For us, as innovators, transparency is both an external and an internal value.  While marketing and PR focus on being transparent externally, innovation needs to apply the same value internally.  Great innovations tap into a real, unmet consumer needs, values and problems. To do that, we have to be honest with ourselves.  Too often, corporate complacency or arrogance gets in the way of the truth. We tend to believe our perspective is the correct, informed one, and that we don’t need to deal with the “inconvenient truths” of the marketplace.

 One way we help our clients face those truths is through a process we call “WarGames.”  Basically, we attack our strategies, our plans and our beliefs by putting ourselves in the position of our competitors.  By changing our perspective, we remove our false sense of security and force ourselves to realize what is really important and true.  Once we have instilled this new, more objective understanding, we are ready to address the issue and create innovative solutions.


Maybe Tom and HIllary, the NFL and the NFLPA could use a little "wargaiming" themselves.