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Love Him or Hate Him: 7 Ways Donald Trump Is a Brilliant Marketer

Donald Trump.  “The Donald.” The Republican frontrunner. The guy with the bad hair. Whatever you want to call him, few people are capable of eliciting such a strong reaction from the American public. The mere mention of his name evokes strong emotions of admiration or disgust in most people; depending on which political campaign they identify with.


Although many people are quick to dismiss him, it’s important to give credit where credit is due. The bottom line is Trump is a brilliant marketer.



Love him or hate him, Trump knows how to play the game and he knows how to play it well. Never (in recent years) has a political candidate been so good at disrupting the status quo and turning the presidential election completely on it’s head; all while dominating the media and headlines.


The real estate mogul’s foray into politics should serve as an important marketing lesson for businesspeople and marketers everywhere. Between Trump’s keen ability to negotiate and his uncanny ability to outsmart his opponents through the art of diversion, there’s no doubt “The Donald” is a marketing genius. Even if the thought of voting for him makes you physically ill, here are seven important marketing lessons you should learn from Trump.


1.Trump has mastered the art of shameless self promotion. Never has there been a political candidate (to my knowledge) who has been more willing to self promote than Donald Trump.


While his brand of self promotion may border on narcissism, at the end of the day it still works and he’s still dominating the polls. And how do you know he’s dominating the polls, even if you haven’t watched the news recently? Because he told you (fifty times), of course.


Marketing Takeaway: While most of us are conditioned to avoid bragging or talking too much about our accomplishments, this can be very detrimental to brand-building and marketing. Self promotion is extremely effective, as long as it’s done in a way that provides value to your audience.


By connecting your accomplishments and offerings with your audiences needs and interests, it’s a win win situation for everyone. After all, if you don’t feel comfortable talking about the good things you’ve done, how do you expect someone else to talk about the good things you’ve done?


2. His authenticity “trumps” crowd-pleasing. (Pun intended - see what I did there?) Trump isn’t concerned with being politically correct and he isn’t worried about people who don’t like him.


He understands that by speaking his truth (regardless of how asinine it may be), he will inherently attract people who share his beliefs. In a political arena that often comes off as overly polished, Trump knows that authenticity is seen as a welcome change and elicits a sense of trust from voters.


Marketing Takeaway: Authenticity is a major marketing buzzword these days, and for good reason. Consumers are sick of interacting with nameless, faceless brands that don’t stand for anything.


Your goal should never be to intentionally anger your potential audience, but more importantly, you should never be afraid to be your authentic self out of fear that you’ll lose a customer. Sometimes taking a stance that angers people is the best thing you can do for your business. Why do you think Simon Cowell was the most popular American Idol judge? One word: authenticity.


3. “The Donald”  understands the value in marketing to people’s emotions. There’s a reason the Trump name gets people so riled up and it’s because he’s a genius at marketing to people’s emotions.


For Trump, the emotional hot buttons he loves to use are fear and trust. He plays on voters’ fears about immigration and terrorism to get people riled up and win supporters. He plays on society’s mistrust of the current political system and uses that to his advantage by being overly outspoken about his political stances. Even people who don’t like him, often applaud him for being the ‘breath of fresh air’ needed in American politics.


Marketing Takeaway: Stop marketing to people’s logic. Buying decisions (and voting decisions) are very rarely, if ever, based in logic. Other emotions that are effective sales drivers are; instant gratification, belonging, competition and time. Find a way to meet people’s emotional needs and you’ll win the marketing game.


4. Trump knows his audience. The reason the Republican frontrunner isn’t concerned with what people think of him is because he knows not everyone is his target market.


Trump is keenly aware that Republican primary voters are frustrated and ready to take back the White House in 2016. He speaks to their main frustrations and gives a voice to what many of them are thinking. At the end of the day, Trump understands that it truly doesn’t matter what voters on the opposite end of the spectrum think about him because they aren’t his target audience anyway.


Marketing Takeaway: Your audience isn’t everyone, so stop marketing to everyone. If you haven’t alienated at least a few customers along the way, you’ve probably done a crappy job identifying your target market.  This is Marketing 101; identify your target market and find a way to connect with them. Seth Godin’s “Tribes” ring a bell to anyone?


5. “The Donald” has balls...Quite literally and figuratively. Most political candidates are so polished and PC that people have become inherently mistrustful of them.


By contrast, Trump is in-your-face, and he doesn’t care if what he’s saying is considered risky. He took the risk to run for office, with no background in politics and a brand image that’s questionable; but whether he wins or not, the man has been utterly successful in turning American politics on it’s head. In a world where so many people are afraid of taking risks or challenging the status quo,  fortune truly does favor the bold.


Marketing Takeaway: Go big or go home. Most people make small, insignificant business and marketing decisions day after day, because they’re too afraid to go after what they really want. Too afraid to write the controversial article. Too afraid to write the book.  Too afraid to e-mail the influencer that might make (or break) their career.


At the end of the day, the successful ones are the ones who took the risk. Besides no one likes boring, stuffy marketing messages anyway. Be bold. Calculated risks = reward.


6. Trump is a genius when it comes to branding. Can you remember what all of the other politicians have said on their campaign trails? Odds are you can’t, but you can likely tell me exactly what Trump stands for. It’s because he’s a genius when it comes to branding himself.


Former President, Bill Clinton described Trump best on Stephen Colbert when he said, “He’s a master brander, and he’s the most interesting character out there.”


Marketing Takeaway: Don’t forget to brand your business. The bottom line is, products have lifecycles but brands have staying power.


Apple is a prime example of a company that has mastered the art of branding. When it comes to the Microsoft vs Apple debate, there’s good reason that the Apple side has tribes of raving, loyal fans: branding.


What do you want your brand to represent? If you’re not branding your business, you’re letting your customers make assumptions about who you are and what you stand for, and that can be very, very dangerous.


7. Trump is a master media manipulator. Even after NBC Universal officially dismissed him for making offensive comments that violate the ‘cornerstones of their values’, they still continue to cover him. He was featured on “Meet the Press” in August, with the biggest audience in a year and a half.


It seems everywhere we turn, Trump is in the headlines for something. It’s because knows what the media wants (ratings and traffic) and he gives it to them. In turn, his poll numbers continue to climb.


Marketing Takeaway: To ignore the media is to leave money and influence on the table. And to get ahead in the media, you need to understand how it actually works.


Ryan Holiday, author of “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator” does a phenomenal job of explaining what the media wants and how to give it to them. Although I’m not a fan of unscrupulous media tactics, Holiday gives a truly fascinating account of how he successfully manipulated the media on behalf of his clients for years.  


I strongly advocate being a decent, honest businessperson and media source, but you need to understand how things truly work if you want to get ahead. Assuming reporters will cover your story because it’s interesting, funny or for the good of society is a novice mistake.


Media people (myself included) do things for one primary reason: traffic and ratings. So if you’re wondering why I’m writing about Donald Trump - aside from finding him to be a brilliant marketer - more than that, I’m doing it because I know people will read it. You’re reading it, after all.


Love him or hate him, Donald Trump truly does personify the holy grail of marketing. Resist it all you want and vote for someone else if your heart desires, but unless your business has reached Steve Jobs’ level of marketing success, it would behoove you to take a marketing lesson or two from the audacious media mogul who just might be our next President. Bad hair and hot foreign wife sold separately.


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