Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has certainly dominated the media’s attention lately. Although there are stories both good and bad fueling the newsroom fires, one thing is certain—Trump is gaining more attention than any other candidate on the campaign trail.
As a marketer, it’s hard not to admire this type of self-generated publicity. He isn’t buying his way into the headlines. He isn’t making promises to get to the hearts of lobbyists.
He’s using what he knows how to use best, which is his business mindset and his distinct personal brand and he’s taking it to the people. Armed with nothing more than a few billion dollars and a non-political approach to the issues, he’s managed to make himself dinnertime conversation across the country and beyond.
Could Trump be the next President of the United States?
That remains to be seen. Still, as we watch this public figure continue to dominate the spotlight, it’s easy to glean lessons among all the campaigning madness. His branding and marketing is genius, whether you agree with his politics and strong opinions or not. Here are three things marketers can learn from Trump (and one thing to steer clear of).
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1. Know What Lights a Fire in Your Audience
During the first debate, Trump made a remark that “no one was talking about [illegal immigration] before me.” While that statement was a bit of an exaggeration, he has a point. Illegal immigration wasn’t taking center stage in the candidate’s talking points. Other candidates wanted to keep away from it; Trump made it front and center of his campaign.
Trump brought up illegal immigration because it is a hot topic for people across the country. He was well aware of that fact. Whether or not you agree with his stance is beside the point. He helped spark the conversation about something that mattered to the American voter by making waves around the issue.
How to Trump-ize Your Marketing: As a marketer, it’s too easy to stay in the safe zone. Don’t be afraid to push your audience. Emotion sparks reaction, so even if people disagree with your marketing message, it will still get people talking, and that’s what you want.
Here’s an example: Burger King recently released a special Halloween Whopper with a black bun. I personally think it’s a bit grotesque, but it’s like a car accident; we keep talking about it, sharing it, and reposting it thereby giving Burger King free press.
Thought leaders aren’t people who say what everyone else is saying. Thought leaders take a risk and put a new spin on what’s being talked about. Taking risks is what attracts loyal customers to your brand.
2. Take Control of the Conversation
In a recent Q&A session by the press, Trump was grilled (or heckled, according to some reports) by Jorge Ramos from Univision. Instead of engaging in the debate, which was destined to not go his way, he asked Ramos to leave the room. After a short time, he brought Ramos back to address his question.
Although many people question whether or not it was a smart decision to ask Ramos to leave, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Trump’s actions helped avoid an argument. Once Ramos returned, Trump took control of the conversation and addressed his questions head on. He avoided bad publicity by calming the situation in what he presumed was the best way possible.
How to Trump-ize Your Marketing: As a marketer, you may occasionally face an angry customer taking to Twitter, Facebook, or Yelp to spout off about your brand. If you receive a negative review on Yelp or social media, publicly make it clear that you’re ready to remedy the situation, but take the conversation offline via private message. That way, any irrational emotions that may be coloring your unhappy customer’s communications are limited in their reach.
And never hesitate to walk away from a nasty post for a short time so when you do respond, it’s politely and professionally.
3. Show Confidence
Without question, Trump makes his statements (no matter how outlandish some might find them to be) with confidence. Listening to Trump, you know he stands behind what he says wholeheartedly. There’s nothing wishy-washy about what he says. He believes every word that comes out of his mouth.
Confidence doesn’t just make a person look good. It makes people listen. Marketers can use this unwavering sense of confidence to get people’s ears to perk up and hear more of what they have to say.
How to Trump-ize Your Marketing: Confidence is the secret to sales. Believe in your product, your brand, and your marketing message, and exude assurance throughout.
BONUS: A Trump Lesson in What Not To Do
Amongst Trump’s communication wins, he continues to have one unnecessary communication gaffe. Trump has sparked a verbal assault on Megyn Kelly, a Fox News anchor who also led the debate. She has yet to respond (which is her own personal branding strategy of not engaging in a head-on battle) but the personal attacks keep coming from Trump.
Even if you do not agree with someone, spitting venom isn’t a good look. Trump might think he’s getting away with it, but few companies could have his same success while making such bold public insults. You have only to look at the Paula Deen racist gaffe or Chick-fil-A’s COO, who was ostracized for his opinions on same-sex marriage, to see that venting your personal opinions in the business arena rarely wins you friends and customers.
The Presidential Election is always great fodder for lessons you can apply to your own business. Trump may or may not make a good President, but he’s an excellent marketer and knows his brand.