Regardless of what I may think of Trump the politician, I can’t help but stand in awe of Trump the marketer. After all, he’s managed to convince millions of my fellow Americans that he’s the guy who should lead this country for at least the next four years, despite having the least political experience of any presidential candidate since Eisenhower (and of course, none of Eisenhower’s military experience).
Think about that for a minute. I’m willing to bet that I know more about the inner workings of financial technology companies than Donald Trump knows about the inner workings of government. Yet if I were to apply for Jeff Yabuki’s job, does anyone doubt that I’d be laughed from Brookfield all the way back to San Diego?
Clearly I’m not qualified to run Fiserv. And just as clearly, Donald Trump isn’t qualified to run this country. But that doesn’t matter. I’ve said many times that a crappy product with great marketing will always outperform a great product with crappy marketing. Donald Trump is that crappy product.
Before any Trump supporters go bananas here, my only point is that on paper he looks like a terrible candidate. If you were to read an anonymous list of his accomplishments and failures, it would never occur to you that, yeah, this guy should be in charge of everything. But like I said earlier, that doesn’t matter. Donald Trump has great marketing on his side. And whether or not you like Trump the politician, you can still learn a few things from Trump the marketer.
1. Build a Brand
For 2016, Donald Trump ranks 324th on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires. More important, there are many people ranked higher who made their money in real estate. Wang Jianlin ranks the highest at 18. Lee Shau Kee, Michael Otto, Donald Bren, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, and Stephen Ross are among the other real estate moguls who topped Trump. Clearly Donald Trump is not the best in the world at what he does. Even so, I doubt that most of the people reading this have ever heard of these other guys.
What’s the difference between Donald Trump and the rest? You’ve known the Trump name for decades because Trump built his name into a brand. And it’s the Trump brand that earned him a spot on the presidential ballot this November. Without that brand, Trump would have no better chance of becoming our next president than Donald Bren or Stephen Ross.
Why do so many companies and so many institutions in our space fail to grasp the importance of building their brands when examples of successful branding are everywhere? I really don’t know, but I guess I shouldn’t complain. After all, it keeps me in business.
2. Sell the Fear
I’m not the first person to say that fear sells. I certainly won’t be the last, either. Let me be clear here. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with the fear that Trump is selling. The point is, he’s selling it – and people are buying it.
If you’re sitting there thinking, well I’d never sell fear, you’re a fool. Stop and think. There are plenty of things that people should be afraid of. Data breaches. Natural disasters. Bad compliance audits. Phishing scams. I’d say those are all legitimate fears. And if you have the ability to mitigate any of those, you need to sell the fear, because in some instances, the opposite of fear is just plain ignorance.
3. Make It Us Versus Them
Donald Trump has led a privileged life from the day he was born. His family was wealthy, he went to the finest schools, he never had to get a job to make ends meet. In other words, there’s nothing about his life that any common folk can relate to. So how is it that the common folk are the ones backing his candidacy? It’s because he talks like he’s one of them. He talks to them and with them, not at them.
The most successful organizations I’ve seen are the ones that build real partnerships with their customers. They can look their customers in the collective eye, say, “We’re in this together,” and really mean it. It’s not about what I’m going to do for you; it’s about what we’re going to do together. In short, good marketing is all about building relationships and being on the same side as your customers.
4. Write the Book on It
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone proclaim that Donald Trump is a great negotiator. When I ask what led to this belief, the answer is always the same: Well, he wrote the book on it.
He wrote the book on it. Or looked at another way, the only reason anyone believes Donald Trump is a great negotiator is that Donald Trump said so via The Art of the Deal. I’ve never seen him negotiate. You’ve never seen him negotiate. But, put in terms we can all understand, Donald Trump has established thought leadership on the topic of negotiating.
You know, thought leadership. That thing that comes from publishing intelligent white papers and writing sharp, provocative op-eds. Catch my drift?
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Whatever else you think of Trump, you have to acknowledge that he’s a great marketer. It only makes sense to learn what you can from his successes.