Trump and the art of understanding your target audience

Trump and the art of understanding your target audience

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about what marketers could learn from Trump’s popularity. Like many, I was shocked last week when he actually won the election (although, let’s be fair – the electoral college won him the election as Hilary easily took the popular vote). 
 
So I wanted to write a couple of follow-ups about what marketers can learn from his victory. I will write about the similarities of the Trump political brand to cult brand approaches next week, but today I wanted to talk about market sizing.
 
When creating a marketing strategy, one of the aspects that marketers need to consider is market size. There are a number of ways to do this – and they’re all, as forecasts generally are, a combination of art and science. Trump’s team – by accident or design (and we may never know which) – was on the money with their forecasts. So what can we learn?
  1. The only numbers that actually count are the real numbers. In the past, the only way to test a market was through research (what do the experts say), focus groups (what do customers say they want) or assumption (we think this many people will like this). Lean marketing principles reject these notions, and instead focus on real-time testing with customers. What messages/images/promotions do they actually engage with or click on. What makes them actually register interest in a product and what makes them actually buy. Whilst you can’t have an ‘MVP’ election, it’s useful to remember that projections are just that – it’s the real numbers that count.
  2. Personal trumps global: customers will often be selfish and vote with their hip pocket rather than appreciate the bigger picture. So, promise them more money / cheaper products and this will often be the determining factor, no matter how strong the other options.
  3. Don’t make assumptions based on your own perspective. You are often not the target market for the product you’re selling. Trump (an urban, extremely privileged man who’s first EVER job application was for the President of the United States) certainly has very little in common with the economically struggling, rural communities who voted for him. Additionally, the assumption by Clinton’s camp that no woman could possibly vote for such a blatantly misogynistic character, or that people of colour would reject him for his long history of racism were wrong, wrong, wrong. But Trump’s camp were on the money with their messaging – it appealed directly to the disenfranchised and struggling rural communities who turned out to vote in their millions.
  4. When selling a brand new product, don’t rely on numbers from the past. Trump’s team didn’t listen to the received wisdom of red vs blue states. They understood where their message was resonating, and aggressively pursued those voters.
  5. Your levers are total size of target audience, and percentage who buy. The total size of Trump’s audience (who his message appealed to) was underestimated by all the polling and the opposition. And the percentage who changed their behaviour and got out to vote was also high. As marketers, this illustrates perfectly the scene for a ‘cult product’ – a highly differentiated product that appeals to a broad range of passionate customers who are actually motivated to vote with their wallets. 
Next week, I’ll look at the drivers to build a ‘cult product’ and how Trump’s camp nailed it.
 
Sybil Williams
Founder and Growth Catalyst