Why businesses should market like Donald Trump (and why they shouldn’t)

Why businesses should market like Donald Trump (and why they shouldn’t)

The 2016 US Elections have been fascinating to follow and have captured the world's attention much more than usual. And like him or loathe him, Donald Trump has been a big part of the fascination. 
 
So what has this got to do with marketing? Although I’m appalled to say it, Donald Trump’s strategy for this election is a not-so-subtle reminder for marketers to think – really think – about their target market and what they want and care about. Donald Trump has tapped into a rich seam of discontent and distrust of the current administration. He has understood the seething betrayal that many Americans feel about losing their jobs, their prestige and their heritage, while seeing the rich continue to get richer.
 
For years, the Republican party – the traditional home of the American bible belt – has sold the same ‘product’: smaller government, lower taxes, a return to ‘American values’. Trump has chosen not to sell the same old product the same old way, but has re-shaped politics with his fiery and confrontational rhetoric where facts don’t get in the way of a good story. And the customers love it. He is speaking their language. His message is 100% tailored to their needs and concerns. He doesn’t have any political experience? Great! He’s going to shake up the political class and get things done. 
 
It’s everything a good brand refresh does. Refocus on the customer. Really understand their motivations and empathise with their situations. Deliver the benefits of the product in a language they connect with and want to buy. Garner lots of free media attention. Focus on the benefits and not on the features (has anyone heard HOW Trump is going to afford all his plans? Not important.)
 
However.
 
(you knew there’d be a ‘however’, right?)
 
Here’s why marketers shouldn’t be heading straight to Trump University (see what I did there?) to implement this strategy in their organisations. 
 
The sizzle is great. The sizzle is important, for brand recognition, for engagement and for generating real community buy-in. But at the end of the day, you have to deliver the sausage. And the sausage has to live up to the sizzle. 
 
And that’s where I think (should Trump win, which, I’m going to put it on the table, I REALLY hope he doesn’t) this strategy will come undone. It is a strategy based on telling the customer what they want to hear, without a connection to reality. Career politicians know that they are judged not just on what they say to get elected, but how that measures up to what they deliver once they are in power. If a product doesn’t deliver the benefits as advertised, the most fabulous campaign in the world won’t save it. 
 
So what can marketers learn from Donald Trump?
  1. Listen to your customers. Learn about their lives, their hopes, their dreams, their disappointments and challenges – not just about the small corner of their lives that your product or service touches
  2. Craft a message that speaks your customers’ language and addresses their desires
  3. Don’t get carried away by the ‘sizzle’ – make sure the product can deliver!
There has to be some truth in marketing, even if, apparently, there doesn't in politics.
 
Sybil Williams
Founder and Growth Catalyst