Make Marketing Great Again – The Strategy that Led to Donald Trump’s Unlikely Victory

November 11, 2016

So, it happened. No one thought it would, but it did. Love it or hate it, Donald Trump succeeded in selling his brand to the American people and putting his name on the White House. Sooner or later, we all will move to the fifth stage or grief. This is where we can exercise the luxury we all have; Hindsight. Let’s contemplate, deconstruct and maybe even admire the exact reasons which enabled Donald Trump to pull off, arguably the greatest marketing campaign of the century! While some might say that, Trump’s strategy was almost like a textbook example taken out of a Philip Kotler book, and there’s another school of thought which advocates that the “Make America Great Again” campaign defied all traditional ‘laws’ of Marketing and yet succeeded. To be honest, the reality is somewhere in between.

I’ll make a cheeky attempt on elaborating what SMEs and Start-ups can learn from this wild but successful campaign. Is it possible to emulate his success in the real world? Definitely. Newer and smaller brands often make the cardinal error of not sampling the Target Audience correctly and live in their bubbles. We live in the happy and oblivious bubble infested with groupthink and synergy. Often, in the relentless attempt to woo influencers and brand advocates, brands fail to build the core group of loyalists. This is where Donald Trump was different. At the risk of oversimplifying a nuanced and extensive plan, let’s have a look at a six-point strategy which can be used by start-ups and smaller brands to emulate the Trump Model of Success.

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Arrogance is only acceptable if your brand’s logo is a pristine, half-eaten apple. So, following the classic rule of, “The consumer doesn’t know what they want. They have to be told what they want.” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the bootstrapped startup ecosystem. The truth is consumers latently know what they want. Identify that latent need and build a hyperbole around it to connect to that specific ignored demographic. The user isn’t interested in your jargon-laden benefits section of the website or the intellectually esoteric value proposition. Keep it straightforward and raw. Now, break the clutter, the noise, the monotony by making your value proposition wild, but at the same time which connects to your target group in a profound and honest way.

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Don’t burn the VC money on PR and Ads yet. Don’t depend on media too much. It’s heavily skewed towards industry standards reeks of groupthink: Starting from graphics and tonality to messaging and sensibilities. You just made a wildly polarizing value proposition. Just sit back and watch content websites, pick up your news! After the initial shock value and op-eds in listicle and content aggregator sites, the connect you implanted in your target group will grow. You will get the eyeballs you need. And that’s how you will begin to assemble your brand loyalists. Don’t believe me? Donald Trump got USD 2 Billion worth free press as a result of his wildly inappropriate statements. In comparison, Hillary Clinton barely managed a fourth of it. Let that sink in for a while.

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Believe. Stand by your words. Believe that your product/service is the best. And don’t forget to loud and pompous about it. When the same message is spun and communicated with a high frequency, people finally stand up and notice. Do a Trump and repeat your sales pitch and value offering relentlessly. Don’t dwell too much in the RTBs (Reasons to Believe). That isn’t important at this point of interaction. Focus on getting the message out to your Target Audience. Once you have their attention, the RTBs become ridiculously easy to communicate.

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Branding is two dimensional. Everyone focuses on just one dimension; Focusing on creating an image of the brand for other to see and perceive. That’s just like being half-ready for the battle. You will be massacred. Focus on subtly educating your now captive Target Audience on how they should see and perceive your competitors. Spot the weak points and keep hitting hard. Rinse and Repeat until the TA is completely oriented. Don’t fall into legal trouble, though! Subtlety and finesse are the keys here.

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It doesn’t take a double Ph.D. to figure out that quite a few of the messages in Step 3 and 4 will fail. So, stay close to your core group, communicate and take insights frequently to zero down on what messages and benefits work the best for you before expanding. This also acts as a final checkpoint to hit the reset button before going all-in at the table. Take feedback. Improvise and Evolve.

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Now you have your core target audience in hand. You have assembled your loyalists, mobilized advocates and adored by influencers! But that will take you only so far. Now is the time to expand. The blitzkrieg is over. Based on the insights in the last step, slowly diversify your message and value proposition so that everybody in your Target Group sees value in your product/service, and not just the core loyalists. Focus on scalability and expansion without alienating your early adopters and advocated. Congratulation! You have taken over the world.
It goes without saying, but this model has to be taken with a pinch of salt. There’s a difference between Bungee Jumping and committing suicide. Evaluate your harness, analyze the breaking points of your target audience and come as close to it as possible without trying to cross it. And of course feel free to tweak your strategy according to your industry and domain. The rules of the games have changed. And make sure you make a few truckloads of money before Donald Trump eventually and inevitably triggers a nuclear war!
(Disclaimer: Mapplinks and its employees do not endorse any of the racist, misogynist and politically incorrect comments of Donald Trump.This article is just meant to be a light-hearted critique of the Communication Strategy that led to his victory.)

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