Brand It Like Trump!

Believe or not, if you are Italian you understand Donald Trump much better than anybody else. No, it has nothing to do with our long tradition of barbers and beautiful monuments. We understand the phenomenon because we have seen it before in the shape of our own champion, Silvio Berlusconi.

They are both successful entrepreneurs, they both enjoy the company of beautiful women, they are both outrageously sexist, and they both have a gigantic ego. These are the obvious traits. These are things that makes the intelligentsia quiver.

Berlusconi was elected and re-elected several times since “entering the field” in 1994. Newspapers and pundits have declared him “politically dead” countless times only to be proven wrong. Now, at eighty, he can’t play the “I-am-not-a-politician” card anymore, nevertheless has been in control of Government for ten of the last twenty years. Against all odds and the dismay of cultural elites, he is still a political force to be reckoned.

In July there was an article on the The Ny Times, titled “La Dolce Donald Trump”, which exemplified perfectly the snobbish view these two men attract. The article is entertaining and quite spot-on, but it doesn’t explain why the Trumpusconi is so popular and loved. To do so, you need to take a marketing approach, not a political one. In Italy it seemed no one was voting for Berlusconi, but at every election he would be battling for the last ballot. The same is happening with Donald Trump. The media is against him, minorities are appalled, women are enraged, yet again he is alive and kicking. A few months ago his candidacy was ridiculed and now he is the leading Republican candidate.

It’s puzzling, but there is a catch. You are thinking politics. You should be thinking branding. And trust me, Donald Trump is text-book branding. So whatever is your opinion of the man, try to get rid of it for a couple of minutes.

1. Vision

Like all great companies, a compelling and easy to understand Vision is the key driver for internal and external success. Trump’s vision is clear: “I’ve always been successful and I’ll continue to be successful”. This very simple and succinct statement is the leitmotif of every speech. It’s a self-centered and irrefutable statement. If your vision is so inherently linked to your personal self, you force other competitors to fight at personal level.

Who is better? Magic Johnson or Larry Bird? Who can answer that question without adding an emotional element? Reasoning, data, facts become irrelevant when you personalise the challenge. It’s like an axiom, a premise so evident as to be accepted as true without controversy. He truly believes in his vision and no comment, mishap, remark or demise, undermines his faith in it. Nike has managed to fight off competition for thirty years with “Just Do It” and Trump might do the same with “Deal With It”.

2. Positioning

Positioning gives a product a clear, distinctive and desirable place in the minds of target consumers compared to competing products. Donald Trump’s positioning is very clear. It’s all about success, wealth and being bluntly outspoken. He has been consistent with this positioning all his life. In interviews. On reality shows. So when he says something outrageous, the consistency with his positioning makes it acceptable. This is something that drives opponents nuts, because they could never do such a thing. Could you imagine Hillary Clinton saying “There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am”. He can say it and get away with it, because it’s consistent with his brand.

Another key success factor is occupying a space left unchecked by competitors. Donald Trump has brought to national relevance issues that had been untouched for years. The infamous Mexican wall is a perfect example of strategic positioning. He is filling a void in the minds of his target voters. The “silent majority” he often talks about is nothing but it’s customer base. And while it’s easy to make fun of the Donald, I wouldn’t underestimate the extent of his followers. Trump has entered politics like someone who shows up at a fox hunt with a bazooka. It may be against the rules, but boy does it make a bang.

3. Communication

If your Vision is simple and concise. If your are positioned correctly against your target audience, then the last piece of the puzzle is getting your message across as much as possible. Berlusconi sings like a french chansonnier and has the widest arsenal of jokes, but Trump is addicting like a Reality show. Even if you hated it, you would keep watching to see for yourself how bad it is. They could even make a spin-off about his hair and people would watch it. Trump is the quintessence of entertainment and reiteration. He constantly repeats few concepts and escapes any other question. This focus and constant repetition it’s unnerving for journalist, but it’s a can opener for voter’s mind.

His campaign slogan “Let’s make America great, again” is a spoof of “Let’s make America great again” used by Ronald Reagan (apparently the comma makes a huge difference) and only a man who gets a visit by a bald eagle is apparently up for the job.

Perhaps this twitter post is comical, but if you connect the dots, you start realising that it’s perfectly aligned with his Vision. I don’t even know who is more badass, the Donald or the Eagle.

Another key element in Trump’s communication is the incorrectness and the complete departure from the oratorical beauty of Obama’s speeches. There is no time for embellishment. Money talks and bullshit walks. Every word is as far as possible from political lingo, and not by chance.

“I don’t know the rules of grammar. If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language.” ― David Ogilvy

He speaks like the many self-made-men of America. People accustomed to get-things-done and take matters in their own hands. He appeals to people tired or perhaps never interested in politics, and they are not a niche. In 2012, voter’s turnout for the US presidential elections was only 55%.

I don’t know if Trump’s ascent will continue at the same pace and I have no intention of changing your idea of him in one way or another, but you should definitely copy is branding tactics as they are quite effective. So go deal with it!