Donald Trump has taken the world by storm with his crazy tactics and outrageous charades as he makes his bid for Republican presidential candidate. And make no mistake about it, everyone is watching. Love him or hate him, when he speaks, people listen.
How does Trump do it? How does his voice consistently rise above the chatter of his competitors? Is it because he has a stronger platform, a better campaign, or a greater presence than others? No, none of these are necessarily true. But what he does have is an unconventional marketing strategy that is working, dare I say, flawlessly. Let’s take a time out from the politics and see if we can glean a few lessons from his campaign on how to to make our marketing great:
1. Live Your Brand
Words used to describe Trump include businessman, wealth, confidence, arrogance, and a handful of lesser choice words and expletives. Nevertheless, he owns his brand. He lives and breathes it, and rarely steers off course. In fact, Trump has helped recent GOP debates hit unprecedented viewer ratings because people know exactly what to expect when they tune in to watch him. His brand practically guarantees news headlines and everyone wants a front row seat.
If you want your brand to reach Trump-like proportions, you need to become your brand. Take for example, Oprah Winfrey, who turned her name into a household brand synonymous with taking control of one’s life and OWNing it. Or actress and entrepreneur Jessica Alba, who co-founded The Honest Company, which delivers affordable, eco-friendly home and baby products right to your front door. Why are these brands so successful? Because they have both mastered the concepts of relationship building, they market with a purpose to a very well defined niche, and they promote causes that they live—day in and day out.
Advocating for something that you don’t truly believe in, or trying to live up to an image that just isn’t you, is a surefire path to brand failure. People can spot an imposter from miles away. Perhaps this is what makes Trump so appealing. If nothing else, he is authentically true to his brand and himself. What does your brand say about you?
2. Dominate the Media
There is no such thing as bad press or so they say. And as far as Trump is concerned, has there ever been a more talked about candidate? Trump has an almost universal name recognition across the United States, whereas other presidential hopefuls remain, well, largely nameless. When it comes to politics, world issues, media, minorities, women, and even Saturday Night Live, Trump is dominating the headlines. These days, you can’t go to sleep without seeing a late-show host parodying Trump or wake up in the morning without seeing a headline bearing the mogul’s name. He is literally everywhere.
Dominating the media doesn’t have to cost millions, but you need to be willing to take a stand on an issue and be consistent. Give the media something to talk about, a reason to tout your product, a cause that makes your brand stand out. Look at the popular shoe company, TOMS. Founder Blake Mycoskie took a simple idea and humble beginnings to fuel a cause that was near and dear to his heart, and apparently millions of others. In less than 10 years, his One for One business model has provided 35 million shoes to children in need.
Dominating the press means being involved in issues that are hot, newsworthy, and current. Seek out ones that tug at your heartstrings and that you feel a personal connection to, do your research, and follow your passion. Being a media superstar doesn’t usually happen overnight, so be patient. And more importantly, once you get them talking, don’t give them a reason to stop.
3. Haters Are a Good Thing
You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again. If you don’t have haters, you aren’t trying hard enough. Just take a look at Trump, who has more than his fair share of them. Brand haters, who may be your competitors, not only bring you publicity, but they give you the opportunity to defend yourself, defend your brand, and take a stand for what you believe in.
People have an innate need of belonging—to feel connected and to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They don’t want to just be a Trump supporter; they want to be a part of making America great again. Being forced to defend your position opens the door for proponents and advocates to fall in love with your brand. And more importantly, it gives you the opportunity to actively engage with them. Sometimes your biggest haters are actually those who love you the most. They feel betrayed by something your brand “said” or “did”, and they are very vocally challenging you to explain your position.
Take for example when Gap changed its logo in 2010 to try and bring a fresh feel to a tried and true brand. Fans revolted. The response was so vehement that Gap abandoned its changes and went back to the original logo. And while that caused controversy, it also gained attention and pulled Gap loyalists out of the woodwork to share what they loved and didn’t love about the brand and the change.
So do it! And in the process, listen very carefully to their criticisms and feedback. You’ll be surprised how much valuable insight you can learn from the people who hate you the most. Oftentimes, they are in fact giving you the keys to success by pinpointing exactly what you need to work on.
Don’t let your haters get you too bent out of shape. Take is as a compliment. Have you ever met a hater that was doing better than you? Trump would definitely say no.
4. Positively Spin Controversy
Who doesn’t love a little controversy every now and then? On the campaign trail, this has been one of Trump’s driving forces. Trump likes to take sensitive issues and push them into the lime-light. While he may not choose his words wisely, he brings attention to hot topics and forces issues to be talked about. Controversy makes things interesting! In today’s attention-challenged world, reaching voters is tough, to say the least. To break through the noise, you need to catch (and keep) attention.
When used in moderation, controversy can positively boost buzz and force people to talk about issues products, technology, regulations, etc. Controversy opens up the floor for discussion. It makes people think, and it provides notoriety for issues that may otherwise fly under the radar. Use controversy to your advantage by engaging in friendly debate, defending your position on a particular topic, or creating the solution to the problem.
Controversy is tricky, but can be effective when used correctly. Don’t overdo it and know your limits—a lesson that perhapsthe Trump campaign could take to heart.
5. Be Everywhere Your Audience Is
The most successful brands share common traits, such as passion, uniqueness, consistency, and exposure. While exposure used to be limited to brands with deep pockets, the Internet has leveled the playing field. Anyone with a website and social media account can now compete against the big players. And more importantly, the top brands have figured out how to leverage these channels to interact and engage with their fans and customers. Trump has over 5M Twitter followers, 5M likes on his Facebook page, and has passed the 750K mark on Instagram.
Social channels are increasingly important when trying to connect with younger demographics. Trump, along with other candidates, understands the importance of giving everyone the means to follow his campaign and to connect with him, in the way that suits them best. While Baby Boomers may be more inclined to watch the nightly news on TV, Millennials are more likely to be scrolling through their social news feed to catch glimpses of what they missed throughout the day.
While Donald Trump is controversial, he appears authentic. He speaks his mind and remains true to himself and what he believes in. There is nothing he is unwilling to talk about and there is no subject he shies away from. Trump connects with his supporters and loves his haters. And as for his brand, it’s everywhere. Even if you aren’t bought into the media hype and haven’t shelled out $20 for one of his campaign hats, there is no denying that his marketing strategy is anything short of brilliant. And whether or not Trump wins the Republican nomination, people will be talking about him for years to come. Brands are no longer an untouchable image. They are real, reachable, and tweetable people. Engage with your customers in ways that best suit them if you hope to win their hearts. #whatareyouwaitingfor