Back-to-Basics: Marketing Lessons from Donald Trump

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He was the most disliked candidate to ever run for the White House. He made innumerable missteps on his way to winning the Presidency. However, love him or hate him, Donald Trump and his 2016 campaign did remind us of some basic and often ignored principles of marketing.

Define a clear positioning

Every brand needs one and Trump was the Washington Outsider bringing change for the disenfranchised. It was clear, true and relevant. All brands need a foil and Washington insiders became that for Trump.

Deposition the competition

This may have been Trump’s greatest strength – “Low energy Jeb”, “lyin’ Ted”, “Little Marco” and most damaging off all “Crooked Hillary”. These names, while seemingly un-presidential, were highly effective in framing the conversation and forcing his opponents to spend valuable resources responding.

Deliver a clear, powerful, inspiring tagline

“Make America Great Again” was not only a slogan it was a promise that inspired his constituents. For a significant percent of the electorate that was tired of lost jobs, stagnant wages, and a government that ground to a halt for 8 years, this was a motivating vision of a better future.

Focus and repeat, repeat, repeat

Good marketing is about focus. Consumers can only digest so many messages. Trump took very complicated issues and distilled them to digestible, understandable and repeatable soundbytes – “Build the Wall’, “Drain the Swamp”, “Law and Order President” and “Bad Deals”.  He provided almost zero policy detail but a clear message about what he promised to do as President.

Old-school survey data is flawed

Likely voter survey data predicted a Clinton victory – and by popular vote she did – but what people say and what they do are two different things. Primary research is critical but it is only one input. Observable behavior is more accurate and ultimately a marketer must distill all inputs and trust their gut.

Speed wins

Speed to market is clearly a huge advantage as a marketer. Trump moved with light speed from issue to issue. Marketing requires planning, discipline, and long-range strategy but it is easy to get analysis paralysis. Take decisive action, succeed or fail and keep moving.

There are certainly unique differences to marketing a political candidate versus a product or service but these lessons still hold true. I wish you all a happy New Year and to be the best marketer you can be in 2017.

*Note: This article is an analysis of the Donald Trump presidential campaign and is in no way an endorsement of him. 

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