Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no denying that his candidacy has been a powerful force and has generated a huge amount of media attention.

In the ongoing battle for public attention, he was arguably always the winner. Trump’s presidential campaign has uncovered some marketing lessons that we could all take note of.

  1. Know your brand.

We are all in agreement that Donald Trump knows who he is. We have watched him for decades become famous as a New York real estate developer, bestselling author, and reality TV star “The Apprentice.” Trump is just the same as he always has been; only now he’s talking about politics instead of business. He is still as bold, brash and ruthless as ever.

Key Learning: Make sure your brand stands for something and sticks at it. Even people who oppose Trump have found themselves admiring his persistent brand message. Brand consistency is vital in an increasingly crowded marketplace. 

  1. Know your audience.

Trump doesn’t care if you agree with him or disagree with him. He’s talking to a select crowd of people who believe in his message and who want to support him. Frustrated Republican primary voters were eager to take back the White House. Trump was simply giving a voice to those feelings shared by his primary voters.

Key learning: Your brand doesn’t have to appeal to “everyone.” Understand your target market and speak to their interests and feelings in a relevant way.

Caption: Trump’s primary voters

  1. Be your authentic self.

All candidates these days try to find the right combination of words and issues to appeal to the right demographic segments of voters. However, this can result in them sounding “focus-grouped.” Trump doesn’t believe in focus groups; he is unrehearsed, unpolished and happily speaks instinctively off-the-cuff.

Key Learning: It’s definitely good to do some market research to find out whether a new product or service is viable, but it’s also important to trust your instincts. Great ideas become complex and watered down when there are too many decision makers and contributors in the mix. Trying to make your product or service appealing to everyone will ultimately end up appealing to no one. If you trust in your idea, others will too.

  1. Be courageous.

During the campaign, Trump said a lot of risky things from remarks about Mexican immigrants to quoting that “all of the women on The Apprentice flirted with him” and that was “to be expected”. Risky and outrageous to most of us, yet the media continually seemed to boost his performance. Why we ask? Trump’s voters respect him for speaking his truth, even if it’s impolite and disrespectful to many of us.

Trump managed to be in everyone’s face, all of the time, with unpolished representations of life through his eyes. He did not care what anyone thought about him.

Key Learning: Many companies try to be blandly unoffending in a failed attempt to appeal to “everyone”. Brands should learn not to be afraid to stand for something, even if it is a little contentious. It’s important to be memorable, even if you lose some customers who don’t “get it,” as long as you keep appealing to the target market of customers who value you the most.


Caption: United Colours of Benetton brand uses controversial ad campaign to get their message across.

 

The intention of this post is certainly not to become like Trump… but to learn from how he’s built his brand and marketed himself over his successful presidential campaign.

 

Andrea Bennett

Senior Project Manager

5/10/2016