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In many ways, Clinton and Trump supporters are the same

People wearing the masks of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
Bilgin S. Sasmaz | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
People wearing the masks of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

For all the ways that supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton differ, we forget about all the ways the two groups are actually the same. Voters' differences tell campaigns a lot about how to appeal to the electorate. So do their similarities.

They both like to shop at Sears, Toys R Us, and Home Depot.

They like Dunkin' Donuts, Chili's and McDonald's.

Both groups want the government to spend more on entitlements. Both groups want the government to spend more on military benefits.

This is the kind of information candidates and campaigns want to know, to help them tell the right message to beef up their supporters, inspire their base and possibly even steal a few voters from the other side.

The information comes from Resonate, a marketing intelligence firm working with brands and political clients. The company was founded in 2008, is based in D.C., and some of its past clients include presidential and senate campaigns.

"This data is good for quick activation, being able to use it quickly in digital," said Lewis Muller, Resonate's director of client strategy. "When you combine this data and layer it on other attributes, it's really impactful."

We've seen candidates specifically try to appear associated with certain brands. Just look at Clinton's famous incognito appearance at an Ohio Chipotle in April 2015.

"It was a shrewd masterstroke of image control," wrote Josh King in his new book "Off Script," about the optics of presidential campaigns. "Compare that to Donald Trump's tweet about a taco bowl from Trump Tower," King told CNBC.


"When Hillary wants to show she's a listener, she shows up at coffee shops in liberal bastions," King said. It can be a shrewd political move to eat at a regular place like Chipotle, but sometimes you'll see a politician stop at local favorites like President Barack Obama's unscheduled visit to Smitty's Burger in Elyria, Ohio. That's guaranteed local news coverage, which can go a lot farther in swing states.

King, who worked as a visual guru in President Bill Clinton's White House and presidential campaigns, describes the leading candidates as "running around so fast, they barely have time to think" about such presumably minor details — even though everybody else will make news out of it.

He points to 1992 and 2008, when the specific watches worn by candidates Bill Clinton (a Timex Ironman) and Obama (an old TAG Heuer 1500) got a lot of attention, spiking sales for each brand.

Once they get into office, King said, presidents can be more active about "using code" to tell the public who they are, for example by which entertainers they invite to the White House, or who gets awarded at the Kennedy Center honors.

Resonating with voters

Resonate's data come from a quarter-million surveys, plus cookies tracking the web behavior of those survey takers. "We are out in the field every five to six weeks," Muller said. "There are 7,000 attributes in our platform."

Obviously the two candidates don't have supporters who are identical. We know there are big differences in the groups. For example, Trump supporters are much more likely to eat at Outback Steakhouse or Buffalo Wild Wings. Clinton supporters are bigger supporters of the Olive Garden. But Trump supporters are much bigger fans of Dominos Pizza.

The sports that people watch are clear: Trump fans like NASCAR, golf, baseball and college football. Clinton fans are bigger fans of the NBA and college basketball.

But this election adds its own wrinkles, given the level of fame of both candidates. They are almost brands into themselves. "With these two candidates, it's tricky," said King. "Trump is in a Boeing 757 and wearing $5,000 suits. But that's what his followers came to expect from years of watching him on the 'Apprentice.'"