An interesting interaction I had with a friend was simply a statement that expressed his sentiment that the would be President Trump would be a refreshing change. This friend declared “I like that he tells it as it is”. And… it was somewhat interesting to hear. I engaged others who were surprised that they were going to, in effect, vote for Trump. And so here we are.
Let’s view the situation of Donald Trump, his marketability and his audience from a contemporary marketing point of view and ultimately what that says about us. Today marketing is about the worst of us, from intentionally polarizing messaging to outright vitriol all of which, whether intentional or unintentional, is exemplified by President Donald Trump.
Everyone has an opinion on Donald Trump. Few are buying what he’s selling, but everyone’s saying his name. He’s got questionable qualifications and proven dishonesty, but Trump is still the top Republican candidate for US President and the US president. His supporters really really like the product that he represents. He won the US presidential race and the question is how did he do it? Let delve in.
Know Your Audience
Donald Trump understands marketing. More specifically, Trump has built a personal brand so strong that he can do no wrong in the eyes of his supporters. Any business would love to generate Trump-level loyalty. Love him or hate him, we can all learn a few personal branding lessons from Donald Trump.
Trump understands Republicans. Over time, the Republican Party has coaxed its supporters into intense emotion around their Democratic opposition and the “dangerous and desperate times” we live in. Trump isn’t afraid to speak directly to those concerns.
Many people are outraged by Trump’s antagonistic words and aggressive actions, but he knows those people aren’t his audience. He never apologizes for being the person he knows he’s expected to be. Instead, when people attack him, he doubles down, continuing the cycle that reinforces his brutish brand. To his supporters, Trump is authentic and truthful, creating the type of loyalty any brand would love to have from their consumer.
Appeal to Emotion
Even when Donald Trump is caught red-handed in a lie or morally questionable situation, his supporters remain unshaken. His campaign doesn’t always stand up to scrutiny, but it doesn’t have to. His supporters follow him not out of rationality, but out of emotion.
Trump makes it clear that he sympathizes with his supporters. If they’re angry, he’s angry. If they’re afraid, he’s afraid. People support brands that share their core opinions, and Trump can afford to pander harder than any other candidate, because his supporters are fiercely emotionally invested in his message.
While many businesses are understandably reluctant to be as polarizing as Donald Trump, it is his variety of intense, emotional polarization that creates aggressive brand loyalty, him being the brand.
Leverage Social Media
Donald Trump spends significantly less money on traditional marketing than his competition (tens of millions of dollar less). Everyone wants attention, but Trump knows how to get it better than most people and that isn’t all that of a good thing. Its the same reason the new broadcasts are filled with bad news, its sensationalism. By making blatantly outrageous statements, Trump ensures that he will regularly be trending, shared, and discussed.
Trumps understands that attention is the currency of modern marketing. He earned the spotlight of the 2016 election through vitriol unprecedented in the last 30 years of American presidential electoral history, especially via social media. He was welcomed as something new. Many of his statements (and even his campaign slogan) are an incendiary repudiation of social cohesion. But, people simply go along with it. The question as to whether this is intentional or unintentional is up for debate, but in either circumstance, it conjures a sense of foreboding.
While not every business should embrace the “any press is good press” principal, it’s difficult to deny that most brands would love to be discussed as much as Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is in control of his personal brand’s dangerous narrative. While other candidates stick to talking points, he knows when to go off script. His understanding of his core audience has gotten him to the front porch of the White House. This level of awareness is what can differentiate a failing business from a thriving brand. At least, until it all comes crashing down.