Branding Lessons from the Donald

In 2015, no brand’s stock has risen higher than Donald Trump’s. More than a month after his candidacy announcement, which was originally dismissed, more or less, as a marketing stunt, he continues to lead the polls in nearly every category.

How has he done it, and what can other brands learn from his example?

Donald Trump

1. Be Authentic
This is, itself, misleading in a way. While Trump probably believes in some of the positions he’s taken, he has just as surely chosen, and expressed them, to effect a sense of authenticity. Whether or not he’s succeeded 100% in this effort, he definitely more authentic than conventionally cagey, practiced politicians. So, in addition to “sexy”, “innovative”, “premium”, or whatever other qualities a brand might aspire to, “authentic” should always be in the mix.

2. Make Enemies
It’s common knowledge, if not common practice, that the attempt to please everyone is far more likely to please no one. Brands should commit to speaking directly to their target audience, with the understanding that that message might alienate others. In some cases, like Trump’s, this might even create enemies. Brands should always be careful when making enemies – you don’t want to write a check your brand can’t cash – but brands shouldn’t be scared of conflict, either.

3. Understand Listeners
The chief factor behind Trump’s success has been the exploitation of many Americans’ politically-incorrect / racist / xenophobic / misogynistic sentiments. This darker side of the country / GOP, which other candidates speak to only carefully, Trump endorses front and center, without mincing words. He understands what many republicans want to hear, and hadn’t heard until him. Similarly, brands should keep in mind the desires of their audience while attempting authenticity. This sounds contradictory, because it is. It’s a balancing act – one that Trump, presently, is dancing his way through.

Donald Trump

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