‘Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster’. How untrue.


Okay, lets start by addressing the elephant in the room: a Muslim, son of a Pakistani immigrant, writing a piece on Donald Trump? Another article full of Chomskian-style sophisticated stuff, aimed at explaining how dangerous Trump and his rhetoric is? No. I am not writing the 1001st article bashing Mr Trump. Whether people like the pearls of wisdom embodied in Trumps domestic, economic and security polices or not, is not my issue right now. As a humble student of marketing, what I deem as an undeniable fact is that Donald Trump is an incredible self-promoter and offers, may the Lord forgive me, some valuable key marketing lessons for entrepreneurs that want to pump up their businesses.

Edward Bernays, father of modern public relations, once wrote: ‘Politics was the first big business in America’ and political campaigns are ‘all side shows, all honours, all bombast, glitter, and speeches’. It’s all about who is best at manipulating public masses by effectively appealing to their ‘mental cliches and emotional habits’. To put it bluntly, a presidential runner is nothing more than a product to be marketed. The quality of a product is not the single exclusive driver of success; otherwise Trump would not be seen as a serious candidate for the Republican Party nomination, never mind a leading contender. It is also important how you market the product. The very charismatic Trump with his over-the-top memo-like facial expressions and deep affection for superlatives, does many things right from a marketing perspective.

Here are some key lessons brands can learn from Donald Trump:

Lesson #1: Know your Audience

Donald Trump is not interested in keeping everyone happy. He is playing to a very specific crowd of voters who due to their frustration are accessible to radical and irrational messages. Why would Trump make positive comments on Muslim Americans or, like Obama, talk of the importance of distinguishing between Islam and violent terrorists? Yes, basic human decency may demand it but from a purely marketing point of view, bashing Muslims is effective because scapegoating a feared minority for the problems the frustrated masses seeking radical change face in their lives, is effective. It works for Trump’s target audience.

In the same way, brands do not have to appeal to everyone. Knowing your target market and directly addressing only their concerns is the way forward.

Lesson #2: Keep it simple yet audacious

Trump’s ability to communicate his message in simplified language is unmatched. He does not rely on scripted speeches or over-the-top sophisticated talking points. While critics accuse him of being reckless, Trump says things in a way an average person understands and might sympathise with. He is direct! Problem: There was a Muslim shooting in San Bernardino and increasing fear of a rise in Islamic extremism. Solution: Ban Muslim entry! Bam! There you go — simple messages. Controversial? Yes! But that’s good. In order to create a buzz it is important to be daring. Trump’s effective balance between simple and outrageous speeches makes him to the Right Wing the political equivalent of a Tupac song.

So, to all you brands out there: instead of complicating your relationship with the public, just KISS. Keep It Super Simple. Don’t try to be over-smart. There is no need for complicating your brand messaging when a direct approach is much more effective.

Lesson #3: Show Confidence

Trump embodies confidence. Not matter how bigoted, outlandish and outrageous his statements are, he makes them with confidence. He believes every word that comes out of his mouth. Confidence is contagious; so is lack of confidence. When you look at someone like Jeb Bush, you can’t help but cringe. When Trump used to call him a man of ‘low-energy’, Jeb would just move back and forth, his shoulders bobbing and an awkward rictus grin spreading across his face. How can people have confidence in someone who doesn’t even have confidence in himself? Confidence doesn’t only make a person look good; it makes people listen. Brands can use an unshakeable sense of confidence to make people’s ears perk up and listen to more of what they have to say.

Lesson #4: Have a catchy Slogan

‘Make America Great Again’ is a catchy slogan and Trump delivers it with strong conviction. In fact, no other candidate has come up with a slogan as catchy. Do you know what Ted Cruz’s slogan is? Or Ben Carson’s? There you go. Trump’s slogan summarises exactly what he claims to stand for and his audiences can relate to it.

If you look at multinational brands, they often have a slogan that is just as identifiable as the brand itself. For example, Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ or McDonalds’s ‘I’m lovin’ it’, are one-liners known all around the world. Some brands don’t even make the effort to come up with a catchy slogan. Others do but come up with really bad ones. Dr Pepper once sold its drinks with the line ‘It’s not for women’ … like really? In terms of sheer stupidity, this slogan may be unmatched.

So, evidently Trump does do some things right and brands can take out a few pages from the Trump marketing guide.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is not to promote bigotry, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia or any other form of Trumpism.


Khushnood Ahmed is a 3rd year student of Business Management at London Metropolitan University (Twitter: @Khushi7Ahmed).

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