Marketing November 11, 2016 Last updated November 10th, 2016 1,789 Reads share

4 Marketing Lessons We Can Learn from the Trump Campaign

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Donald Trump has won the United States Presidency. Two years ago, most people would have thought that was a joke. When his campaign started, much of the media treated it that way: the mantra went something like “This can’t be real. He doesn’t have a chance.”

Over time, it became clear

Lesson One: Start with Why Instead of Who

Simon Sinek tells us that great leaders start with why they do things before they even tell you what they do. Even before his eventual victory, many asked if Trump was a great leader, remembering that being a great leader does not make someone a great man. It simply has to do with marketing using biology, and the way the human brain works.

Most marketing goes like this: “We’re Steve’s Widgets. We make widgets using a more efficient process and stronger materials than our competitors, so they cost less and last longer. Want to buy Widgets from us?” This is typical and moderately effective, providing your customer wants to buy widgets, and they recognize and trust your brand.

Apple, however, is good at doing the opposite: “We create beautiful, innovative products designed to make your life easier. We do this by creating products that customers did not even know they had. We make computers, phones, and tablets. Want to buy one?”

The difference is starting by answering why you do what you do first, instead of starting with what you do. Trump did this masterfully: “I think America is a great nation that has gone the wrong direction. I want to make America Great Again. How? By throwing out the old system, securing our borders, bringing jobs that have gone overseas back home, giving tax breaks to those who create jobs, and focusing on getting us out of debt. I’m a Republican running for President. Want to vote for me?”

On the other hand, Hillary started with the who: “I am a former First Lady, Secretary of State, and seasoned politician. I want to make things better for the middle class, support women’s rights and equality for everyone, and get our economy back on track.” Much of the time, we never heard the “why” from her campaign. Instead, they emphasized the reasons not to vote for Trump. Or the why sounded self-focused: “I am the most experienced and qualified candidate.”

Start with why. Tell your customers why you do what you do, and be sure that reason is focused on a problem, need, or want that they have and why they should solve it. Much like the marketing funnel, this is the point where they become aware of you. Once you have branded your why, you can add how and what you do to your message.

Lesson Two: Invite People to Join You

At first, it seemed like the Trump campaign was a branding stunt that would end at some point. The simple approach of inviting people to join his campaign, even if it appeared the intent was to promote his brand or at least start a conversation about certain issues worked extremely well. The campaign took a simple event planning approach marketers can learn from.

Go Old School

Much of the Trump message was spread through traditional media: signs, billboards, and old school news media. Yes, it is the digital age, but when spreading your message, you can’t ignore the power of simple signage and print coverage and advertising.

Tap Your Neighborhood

Trump first began by inviting those already close to him to share his message. Since his name was already familiar in both business and entertainment circles, this enabled him to grow his audience organically. Start with those you already have influence with who recognize your brand and encourage them to help you spread your message.

Email Marketing

Right away, the Trump campaign began to capture email addresses, some who subscribed simply out of curiosity. The campaign sent out a reasonable amount of email as well: not nearly as intense as the sometimes several times a day emails from the Democratic party. You should do the same. Capture customer contact information, and use it wisely to invite them to join your customer base.

Social Media

While at times Trump was a little out of control on Twitter and his campaign had to attempt to control his outbursts, that same social media played a big role in his success. In his case, negative publicity was still often beneficial, rallying his supporters. This may not be the case with your business, but if you do not know how, learn to use social media skillfully to promote your business.


The Trump campaign was well-timed with a deep-rooted dissatisfaction with politics in general along with a few other factors. Consider this when strategizing your own marketing. What disruptions are happening in your business area that you can capitalize on? What issues are your customers having that your product or service can solve? Where is your competition falling short? Is the timing right for you to step in and make a difference?

Using these same basic planning principles, you can make your marketing successful as well by inviting people to join with you instead of just buying what you are selling whether that is a product or service.

Much like the Brexit outcome in Great Britain, the Trump win came as a surprise to the media. Many of the same factors influenced both outcomes.

Lesson Three: Realize Emotion is a Powerful Influencer

It is not a marketing secret that emotions often override facts in consumer decisions, as was the case with voter decisions this election. Some issues that swayed voters to choose Trump are relatively minor in the overall national and international picture, and may not even be under the control of the office of President. However, because of the personal and emotional connection voters felt with the issues, they deeply influenced their decision.

In the marketing world, this is something we must understand. How people feel about the product or service we offer is important, and the emotions they feel about the problem we are solving for them is also important. What emotion does a customer feel that compels them to use your product or service?

For example, if you sell data recovery services, the reason people turn to you is likely fear of losing their data. Your marketing must reassure them that you can recover their data, so their fear is unnecessary because of your ability and competence to handle the situation.

Lesson Four: Understand Personal Perspectives Sway Minds

Individual perspectives often lead to perceptions that are not always based on facts.  These perspectives sway the minds of not just the individual customer or voter, but their connections who share the same perspective.

Therefore as marketers, it is essential that we are cognizant of the perceptions our customers have of not only our products but the problem they are designed to solve. It is essential that we respond to those perceptions in some way, whether that is an attempt to correct them or validate them long before we present our product or service as the solution.

One of the most important things we can take away from the Trump campaign is its unlikely success. Despite negative press and other setbacks, the ultimate outcome was what he set out to achieve.

Whatever we think of the candidate himself, as businesses we can take away lessons from his campaign and apply them to our own marketing strategies. By starting with why, inviting people to join you, and recognizing the influence of both emotions and perspective, we will be better at what we do.

Image: 21 February 2016: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to several thousand supporters at a rally in Atlanta, Georgia.

Troy Lambert

Troy Lambert

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