Trump Brand Lessons are Lessons every business should take notice of

How good is Trump?

There is a funny story that I heard the other day, it was about this billionaire reality TV star who decided to run for the Presidency.

The funny thing was that everybody thought it was a joke – apart from the reality TV star.

And then he became President. Trump!

What is amazing about this scenario is that everybody, and I mean everybody thought it would never happen.

And it wasn’t only the press and the so-called ‘election’ experts who got it wrong – it was also virtually every poll, including the closing polls on the day of the election!

Furthermore, they weren’t all just a ‘little bit’ wrong . . . they were all majorly wrong because Trump ended up winning not only the Presidency but also both Houses of the American government – Congress and Senate.

So how did he do it?

Trump built a formidable brand.

So, what makes a great brand?

At BrandQuest we believe great brands come from within rather than an outsourced creative endeavour. This means to be successful, a great brand must be true to itself and behave consistently and authentically.

When you think of the Trump Presidential brand, irrespective of whether you personally like him or not: Does he behave consistently, and is he authentic?

Now be careful here, this is not whether you think Trump behaves like you want him to behave or how you would behave, but rather: Does Trump behave, well like Trump in everything he says and does?

I think the answer is a resounding ‘YES’!

Let us pull-apart his campaign piece-by-piece to analyse it success.

The critical importance of Targeting or “Not trying to be all things to all people”

 One of the interesting things that Trump did was he didn’t speak to all the US and he didn’t pander to the majority. In other words, he targeted.

If you were in that target, the so-called‘silent voters’, the disenfranchised, the American battlers, the non-elites, then everything…every single word that Trump said was “golden” to their ears

To them, it was as if he was specifically talking to his constituents.

And herein lies where the commentators, the political elite and the pollsters all got it so wrong.

They hypothesised who they thought was going to win the election, that they represented the voters or the opinions of the voters, that they knew what was ‘right for the entire country.’

The problem with this logic is that they believed their own thoughts which reinforced their own beliefs. Hillary, who was much more mainstream and more establishment, was said to appeal to more people, but ended up having less cut through. Hence Hillary was able win the majority of all voters…but not more of the vote that counted.

Perhaps, most fatal of all to Hillary’s ambitions, she began referring to Trump’s core audience as the ‘Deplorables’, which as history has shown proved to be a deplorable error in itself!

Choose a channel that works.

Trump also found a channel in Twitter, that could connect to his target, that was easy to use, that allowed Trump to talk directly and authentically to his target, could build on the candidates short one-liners and importantly… it cost next to nothing.

Better targeting costs less.

A further benefit of Trump’s targeting was that he gained much more bang for his buck – he spent 50c for every $1 that Hillary spent. (He underspent Hilary by $438.1M – Hilary spent $969.1M to $531.0M for Trump (Bloomberg)

This means on the most simple measure, every dollar that Trump spent was double as effective (maybe that was his savvy business background kicking in.)

Trump connected on an emotional level to his Target  –

“MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”

Trump’s messages (or value proposition) connected with his target by being short and to the point and highly mnemonic and memorable.

Everything from his red hats to how he concluded his speeches – was about a single promise to ‘his’ voters – to “Make America Great again.” Which by the way he developed and trademarked way back in 2012 following Romney’s defeat by Obama.

Compare this to the Hilary slogan “Stronger Together”. Which really doesn’t say anything.

Then there were his election promises – simple propositions that reinforce the overall statement. Each promise was simple, such as: a halt to Muslim entry to the US; building a US-Mexico border wall; withdraw from TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership); lower taxes for corporations and individuals. All sentiments designed to appeal to his target and deliver his promise to; ‘Make America Great Again.’

To demonstrate how Trump considers and continues to build ‘his’ brand he has even developed his campaign theme line for 2020 – “Keep America Great!”

Obliterate the Competition

His simple and succinct messages were turned to great effect on his opponents. He picked each competitor off one-at-a-time by summing them up in a single word.

A word that could take a weakness and belittle them: e.g. ‘Little Marco’ “I call him little Marco. Little Marco.” (Marco Rubio). “I call him lying Ted” (Ted Cruze), or “Low Energy Jeb” (Jeb Bush). And finally, “Crooked Hillary”.

The Trump Movement – People forgive a brand they like

 Trump is often quoted as saying he built a movement. One of the many benefits of a strong brand is that as a buyer of the brand you rationalise and forgive.

Many of the insults that Trump levelled at his opponents could be said about him. In fact, during the debates there were many counts of how ‘untrue’ some of Trump’s remarks were, yet it seemed to have little effect on his support from his ‘true believers’. It just made him appear more human.

To build Brand – Be Consistent

Now back to the press and commentators. The view expressed, or hoped for by the press, was that during the transition and his Presidency, Trump would somehow morph into a mainstream politician. That he would abort on his ‘radical’ views and promises. That they were stated simply to win the election and he would become a ‘party politician’ once elected (after all, isn’t that what all politicians do once they’re elected?)

“The office was bigger than the man” as Obama said, Right? No, wrong. The same experts were wrong again.

When you think of the mainstream reports of the Trump administration, they are all centred around words like, ‘tumultuous and failing’ however in reality he is just making good on his promises. He is just doing what he said he would do.

So, to the people who did not vote for him (the press, the elite, the commentators) he is outrageous. But to his target market he is simply following through on his promises. “A politician is doing what he said he would do!”

Learning from Trump?

So, here’s what we can learn. To build a great brand:

  • You need to target.
  • You need to be authentic and meaningful to that target. In fact, the more specific and meaningful (even controversial) you can be, the greater opportunity it is to get ‘cut-through.’
  • Connecting on an emotional level by being authentic builds brand
  • Choose a channel that works for your target
  • And finally – be consistent!

So, I ask you again, “How GOOD is TRUMP?”

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BrandQuest is a strategy and brand management consultancy that intrinsically believes that great brands are born of the founders and staff who work there. They are not the result of an outsourced creative endeavour but the cumulative knowledge that a company possesses.

Since 2007, BrandQuest has developed a process that within a 3 week time frame can extract and refine this inner knowledge into a powerful brand strategy.

Our clients work with us because they seek:

  1. Increased brand and business value
  2. Strategic Alignment, clarity and direction
  3. Robust, authentic and fearless advice

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