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3 Surprising Branding Lessons We Can Learn From Donald Trump

As Donald Trump’s numbers rise and our country becomes fixated on the circus that can only be described as a billionaire’s inner child playing a scary, too-real game of “when I grow up I want to be a presidential candidate”,  my marketing consultant brain can’t help but study his rise in popularity with a morbid fascination and disbelief.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

I can’t decide if the Trumpster (hey, that rhymes with dumpster – coincidence?) is a marketing genius or a Forest Gump-like character who, through his own ignorance and naiveté blindly stumbles into success. (I had to have someone else type that last sentence for me, my fingers were physically incapable of typing “genius” and “Donald Trump” in the same sentence). Either way, I believe there are some valuable branding and marketing lessons that small businesses can learn from him. Some lessons are what not to do (maybe I’ll get to those in another blog). But for now, let’s focus on what he’s done to create the formidable and prominent Donald Trump brand:

  1. He connects with his audience emotionally. Donald Trump has created a viciously loyal following. I have no doubt he could lead some of  them into the fires of hell and they’d blame illegal immigrants for it. How did he do it? By tapping into their emotions. He knows his supporters are angry, disenfranchised, disgruntled Americans, and he fuels those emotions with every rant, insult, and tweet.

The lesson for small business is this: knowing your base, and having laser focus on them – instead of trying to appeal to the masses – is critical to building a strong brand. Study your customers and learn what emotionally charged challenges or desires drive them. And then commit to making every single tiny detail of your business and your brand about tapping into that emotional need or desire. Donald Trump is proof that people buy on emotion and not logic. 

  1. He’s genuine. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is consistently, unapologetically, 100% Donald Trump. He doesn’t backpedal and he doesn’t compromise. Is your business that real? Do you know exactly who and what you are, and do you stick to that with every customer, sale, project, tweet, post, and ad? Or do you waver to try to please everyone and get every penny of business that’s offered? Knowing who you are as a business – and owning it – creates an invincible brand.
  1. He’s an expert at tooting his own horn. Donald Trump is Grrrreat (I had to have my surrogate type that too…) and he’ll be the first to tell you so! He never misses an opportunity to talk about how he’s leading in the polls or how much smarter, richer, or better looking he is than anyone else on the planet. On the opposite end, I run into business owners all the time who are afraid of promoting any of their successes. While extremes on either side may not be effective, learning how to promote your benefits and success stories is a must for building a brand.

While I don’t advocate using Trump as a model for most things, I believe that these 3 examples of effective branding are worth noting. As for the long-term success of his brand, only time will tell.

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