What Marketers Can Learn from Donald Trump

Eric Lam
Eric Lam
Jun 7, 2016 · 4 min read

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Donald Trump has changed the game of politics. But behind the controversial opinions, bravado and bluster, the way that Trump captured America’s attention stems from a fundamental shift in how content is consumed today. Some have argued that Donald Trump hacked the media by taking advantage of these changes.

For marketers, the goals of a campaign are similar to that of a political one: engage with a targeted audience, guide perceptions, and consistently re-enforce a key message on behalf of your brand.

So what can we learn from Trump’s wild, so-far highly successful campaign?

Content Beats Advertising Every Time

Republican contenders, backed by anti-Trump super PACs, outspent trump by over $100 million during the primaries with little success in moving polls and opinions, forcing pundits to question the value of political ads.

But the reality is that it’s the medium of advertising itself that’s on the decline. Consumers today are trained to ignore advertising, in whatever form it takes. In 2015, nearly 90% of all digital ads were skipped. 50% of commercials are skipped from DVR. And when ads are engaged with, less than 50% of consumers trust the messaging behind them.

This means that in order to get your message across, you must be part of the original content.

And the best content creation channels on social are owned by real people, not companies. The fashion blogger. The beauty YouTuber. The comedian on Snapchat. Influencers are the key to unlocking audiences through a trusted medium with highly engaging content.

This is known of course, as over 84% of marketers are planning on launching influencer campaigns in 2016. The tough part is finding the right influencers and building a sustainable strategy, which is the reason (shameless plug!) we built Revfluence in the first place.

Traditional Media Channels are Increasingly Irrelevant

Before 2016, practically every election was heavily decided by the media. The exposure you received was a result of how much coverage you were given on newspapers, TV and radio. But the Internet, and specifically social media, has weakened traditional channels’ control and empowered the voice of individual brands and people. Trump has taken full advantage of this by consistently voicing his message in town hall gatherings and having that message proliferate across Facebook, Twitter and countless other websites and channels.

And while cable news has given huge blocks of airtime to Trump segments, they are a reaction to, not a driver of, this strategy.

Good marketing campaigns should operate a similar way, by creating a unique message and having it spread on social media. And once again, the most authentic content on social comes from real people: your brand advocates (big or small!). That’s the reason why 92% of consumers trust regular people and influencers when making purchasing decisions.

So as a marketer, your goal should be to build your own army of (hopefully less polarizing) mini-Trump’s to spread the word!

People Respond to Passion & Excitement

One of Trump supporters’ favorite qualities about Trump is that he “tells it like it is”. And while the legitimacy of this can obviously be questioned, the essence of it comes from the emotion and passion he demonstrates from each of his events.

Nowadays, people are bombarded with messaging from numerous screens in a given day. Therefore, you need a stronger signal to stand out, which comes from passion conveyed in your content. Recall rates are 45% better when audiences have an emotional reaction from the content.

And the most passionate content about your brand comes from influencers who truly believe in it. Those needle-in-the-haystack advocates who love everything that you stand for and will fall all over themselves to tell others about you. When you can find them, the results speak for themselves (example: this single video by Jaclyn Hill drove six-figure revenues for Bellami Hair, a beauty e-commerce brand who she loves).

What It All Means

Clearly, brands should not emulate 100% of the tactics that Donald Trump has employed. Brands don’t have the luxury of having 70% of the country disapprove of them. But what you can do is employ a similar content & social media strategy to engage a passionate audience for your brand.

We started Revfluence because we believe that content creation, particularly via social media, will be the dominant form of marketing over the next decade. And there’s no better proof point of that than Donald Trump.

Eric Lam is the co-founder and CEO of Revfluence, the leading social content & influencer platform with over 200 brands like Calvin Klein, MeUndies and Dollar Shave Club.

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