5 Marketing Takeaways From Trump's Campaign
First things first -- as a lifelong Republican, I can't stand Donald Trump.
His racist rhetoric, misogynistic tendencies and divisive diatribes are shamefully embarrassing. Worse than that, his plans to weaken the First Amendment protections of journalists in this country are downright frightening.
He's more believable as an "evil" manager of some wrestling heel in the WWE's next Wrestlemania pay-per-view than as a presidential hopeful.
He's a dumpster fire in a $10,000 suit.
Safe to say, I'm not a fan.
However, like it or not, Trump's performance on Super Tuesday was stunning and provides at least five marketing takeaways for anyone building a brand or a business.
1. Shock sells.
Whether it's radio shock jocks Howard Stern or Don Imus; sports bad boys Dennis Rodman or Alex Rodriguez; performers Rob Zombie or Lady GaGa in a meat dress -- the ability to shock is a proven way to cut through the clutter and garner attention.
It's a common tactic within the entertainment and sports industries but was a rarity in politics until Trump.
His shocking comments about Hispanics, women, foreign allies, the GOP field of candidates, the country of Mexico, the Pope, etc., have taken political discourse to a shockingly low level.
Yet, he continues to win.
2. Free is better than paid.
According to media reports, of the seven remaining candidates seeking the presidency, Trump is tied in last place as far as raising money at $27.3 million; however, his media coverage and total number of media impressions are 40 percent higher than that of his closest competitor, Hillary Clinton.
Media outlets can't seem to help themselves. They can't turn away. They broadcast and print every reckless word he utters.
So, while every other candidate is burning through their respective campaign war chests pouring millions into advertising to get their messages out, Trump has claimed to be getting "too much" attention during recent debates while he spends campaign dollars like a miser.
Trump is a coifed three-clown-car pileup on the highway that the media is compelled to cover, at virtually no cost to him.
3. Simple is better than complex.
Never in the history of televised U.S. politics has a candidate advanced so far on so little substance.
Here's the Trump platform in a nutshell: blockade Mexico, overhaul healthcare to something better, cut taxes for everyone, stop corporations from leaving the U.S., force corporations to make products here in the U.S., fix foreign trade, create millions of high-paying jobs, end illegal immigration, fix the education system -- oh, I almost forgot, make America great again.
When pressed for specifics he simply repeats a few threadbare talking points claiming that he doesn't need details -- perhaps that's because the devil dwells in the details and Trump is an avowed Christian after all.
Regardless Trump's grossly simplistic solutions have found itching ears among a broad based, disenchanted electorate.
4. Content isn't king, context is.
Per the previous point, Trump is not winning because of his innovative solutions to complex issues facing this country. Trump is winning because he's an outsider and his timing was perfect.
For the past eight years populist Republicans have been outraged at their "Party Establishment" for its lack of leadership, ideas and initiative. To steal a line from the 1976 movie Network, the GOP rank-and-file is "mad as hell..." and not taking it anymore.
If you doubt that, just look at the broad coalition of grassroots GOP support that turned out to the polls on Super Tuesday for Trump.
This is the only election year that an insurgent presidential candidate could have advanced so far, so fast because the Republican electorate wants to burn down its own partisan house with a Trump-branded flamethrower.
While the Party's elitist intelligentsia was completely out of touch with its voting base, Trump recognized that swelling emotional wave and may ride it straight to the nomination.
Regrettably, timing and context "trump" content.
5. Reposition competitors.
Trump is a brash bully in the truest political sense, and he would no doubt make Niccolò Machiavelli proud -- or possibly embarrassed.
Regardless, from the start of his campaign Trump has been incredibly successful at defining and repositioning his competition.
Since Trump truly is an outsider, he has no political record to defend and can focus on playing offense all the time. He has relentlessly called every GOP competitor some combination of a "...liar...disaster...lightweight...fraud...loser...etc."
And because he sucks all the media attention out of the room, leaving the GOP field gasping for airtime, when competitors do get coverage they're forced to waste their time repairing and repositioning their respective reputations.
Trump is holding a real-time clinic on marketing, proving that these takeaways are useful to consider for anyone building a business or a brand.
He obviously knows about building a business and a brand, but that doesn't mean he knows how to be a decent human being. While the Trump brand seems to be getting stronger by the day, the unfortunate truth is that it inversely weakens our country every step closer he gets to the White House.