I’m not here to defend Donald Trump. I’ve worked with him many times in the past and he really is a pain in the ass. Love him or hate him though, I have to admit, he does know a thing or two about how to build a brand.
Here are a few things those of us in marketing can learn from “The Donald”…
Believe in your brand
If there’s one thing Donald Trump believes in, it’s Donald Trump. People are always trying to throw him off and challenge his beliefs. The minute he backs off, or apologizes, he weakens his brand. Instead he takes his punches, stays the course and marches on. Even when he’s wrong. And he always tells you that his people, his products and anything he touches are the absolute best. Even if they aren’t.
Go big or go home
People want excitement. They want surprise. They are bored out of their minds with the status quo. And in today’s fragmented media market, you’ll never break through the clutter if you play it safe. To get noticed, go big or go home. And nobody makes bigger or bolder statements than Trump.
Be your own brand
Donald Trump doesn’t worry about what other people stand for. He focuses 100% on himself and what he stands for. His brand voice is always consistent. His point of view is always crystal clear and he keeps his message simple and easy to understand. Too many brands chase the competition, or change direction because of something happening in the category. We should all be as bullheaded as Trump, assume the competition is a bunch of morons, and stay offensive. (Double meaning intended.)
Have a clear enemy
For a brand to have a reason to exist, it has to offer something that other brands don’t. What problem does your brand solve? Look at the category and find a way to push against the competitors to differentiate your brand. The enemy in Trump’s case is easy to identify … career politicians. Why? They tow the party line, they have contributors they’re beholden to and they rarely speak off the cuff. So he positions himself as the anti-politician who says what he thinks, doesn’t owe favors and knows how to actually get things done. And he repeatedly attacks his opponent’s weaknesses.
Turn negatives into positives
When people started making fun of his hair, he could have changed it. Instead, he made jokes about it himself and it’s gotten him a ton of attention in the media. As weird as it is, it’s made him more human. And when people attack him, he uses it as an opportunity to respond and get even more press. If your brand does something that creates negative press, use the media attention to get out there and further your brand message in response to the criticism. Be smart, be witty, but never look like you’re on your heels and caught off guard.
Take credit for it
Trump didn’t just buy Wollman’s Rink, he saved the ice skating rink from disaster and gave New Yorkers a place to fall in love. He’d tell you The Apprentice saved network TV. And he saved the Gulf and Western building and Columbus Circle by rebuilding it as Trump International Hotel. Speaking of things with the Trump name… He brands everything associated with him with his logo, from buildings to planes and helicopters to bottled water. It wouldn’t surprise me if the toilets in his buildings make the sound “Trrrruuump” when they flush. He makes sure his brand gets noticed at every point of contact.
Your brand may not want to be the “big, loud, ugly American” brand, but it does have to stand for something. And while I wouldn’t normally recommend using Trump as your inspiration, you have to admit he has everyone in America talking. And he doesn’t care if you love him or hate him, as long as you don’t ignore him.