Trump is a Marketing Genius
In the startup world, everybody talks about “disruption.”
Well, love him or hate him, Donald Trump has just disrupted the American political system.
How did he do it?
He has a natural instinct for marketing, promotion and branding. And he’s honed that instinct over many years in real estate.
Most recently, he leveraged his image as a successful billionaire into “The Apprentice” TV show, which put his face on millions of televisions around the country.
Getting elected US President is unquestionably his greatest marketing achievement.
I can only make educated guesses at his marketing mind based on what I’ve observed over the last year since the start of his candidacy.
Here are some major factors that led to his win.
All publicity is good publicity
Probably the most critical lesson here.
We see it with Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, and Justin Beiber among many others. Even negative publicity helps them.
Grant Cardone has a great rule: embrace your haters, because they will do more to promote your message and your brand than anyone else.
Kim Kardashian is a classic case study. Instead of letting haters change her behavior or adjusting her content to please them, she just does more of it.
(Indeed, to some extent Hillary Clinton has benefited from this hate effect as well, over many years of Republicans hating on her like crazy, and giving her mountains of free publicity.)
Trump took this rule and applied it to the world of politics.
It was a dangerous gamble. But in many ways, if he was going to win, it was the only way he could win.
If he tried to behave himself and be a normal, professional politician, he would have faded away long before the nomination, rejected by the Republican primary voters.
His boldness, brashness, salty attitude and sailor’s mouth were just what the country wanted (much of the country anyway).
It was a breath of fresh air in a world of stiff, squeeky-clean, focus-group-tested politicians who always seemed to talk a lot without saying anything.
On top of that, by being politically incorrect and not backing down from hate and vicious criticism, he endeared himself to millions of people desperate for a leader with backbone.
And he ensured that his haters would be motivated to berate him, criticize him, crucify him, curse him… and in the process spread his message far and wide.
By shocking so many people and saying and doing things that would seem to kill his chances, he got tons of attention, and the equivalent of millions of dollars in free press coverage.
Technology and social media
Trump has used Twitter masterfully.
Twitter is actually a declining platform among the tech-savvy set, but for average people in America it’s still a great way to get updates from celebrities and friends.
Trump already had a huge number of followers before he announced. And it just continued to grow with the national media attention for his campaign.
But the real difference is when you look at total tweets:
Trump has tweeted 34,000 times. Hillary: just 9,817
This is a massive difference. And this level of activity has a tangible effect on awareness and support.
It’s not to say that Hillary had to do more on Twitter specifically. But she underperformed on social media in general, which is where the eyeballs are in today’s world.
Instead of learning the lesson of her loss to Barack Obama years ago (Obama did great at online promotion), she focused on traditional campaigning (paid advertising and the “ground game”).
Simple images and messages
The bright red cap. The simplistic motto “Make America Great Again!” The simple language of his speeches, often to the point of crudeness.
His campaign communicated with people in a way that was obvious, straightforward and easy for anyone to understand.
Hillary’s messaging (“Stronger Together” and “I’m With Her”) was more theoretical and esoteric, making the consumer think about what it meant, the real meaning behind it.
For example “I’m With Her” was, among other things, a subtle way of calling attention to her gender and the historical significance of that.
But that schtick only appeals to a certain crowd. It’s lost on many others.
Trump’s actual pitch was also very simple: “only a very successful businessman like me can fix the crappy system in this country.”
That’s it. He just stayed laser-focused on that one simple idea throughout the campaign, and it made sense to people.
Turning out his base; not compromising
Back in the summer, when Trump selected Mike Pence, a deeply conservative, anti-gay, traditionalist Midwestern governor, for Vice President, it told me one thing: Trump was doubling down on his base.
He wasn’t going to bother courting Hispanics, or feminists, or other groups that were not his target audience.
Instead he would focus like a laser on his base of conservative Rust Belt whites.
It was a bold decision. It went against political common sense–you have to build bridges; you have to build a coalition.
But it worked. By speaking so specifically to the concerns of his core supporters, Trump resonated strongly. And they came out on Election Day.
By contrast Hillary tried to appeal to everyone, and in the process excited almost no one.
Surrounding himself with hot babes
Don’t laugh. We all know that sex sells.
When Trump is flanked by wife Melania on one side (a professional model and probably one of the most beautiful first ladies in US history), and his hot daughter Ivanka on the other, this gets attention.
His sons Donald Jr and Eric, tall, fit and always well-dressed, don’t hurt either. People like looking at good-looking people.
With good-looking men and women standing with him, Trump looks like a winner, a successful person living the life many people aspire to.
Make your marketing great again
Whatever you think of Trump and his politics, the point is we can learn a lot from his marketing skills.
Embrace all publicity and attention. Don’t be afraid of haters.
Reach your audience on the platform where they’re actually paying attention. And be very active on it.
Keep your message and your imagery simple.
Cater to your core audience first and foremost; don’t try to be all things to all people.
And where possible, leverage beauty and sex appeal to capture your audience’s imagination. And project the image of a “winner,” however that is defined by your audience.