Lessons from the Donald for design and branding businesses

The other day we were talking to the design manager for global brands at one of the very big fmcg businesses — someone with deep insights into design and branding agencies.

To give you an idea of the scope of his view of the sector, apart from the range of agencies he actually commissions currently, he also gets over twenty new business calls and at least thirty emails from their competitors — every day.

One thing that strikes him again and again is that they have no strategy for their own brands; no distinctive way of “thinking about their businesses” that leads to any realistic point of difference in their propositions.

Now here is interesting data published by The Drum about Donald Trump’s campaign to become Republican nominee for That Job. Trump has spent a tiny $10m dollars on advertising. He’s only eighth in the spending league for the main twelve candidates in the whole Presidential race. Top is Jeb Bush on $82m followed by Rubio on $55m — both of them now yesterday’s news. Hilary Clinton is fourth in the list on a $28m spend.

But here’s the thing. Trump has received unpaid-for media coverage worth nearly $2 billion.

Clinton, next best value, is on a mere $746m unpaid-for. Bush got $214m for his $82m investment; Rubio, $204m.

Love him or loathe him, Donald J Trump has a mighty strategy, and a clear and distinctive proposition, even if it does have more to do with being anti-establishment than with policy-making.

Trump has a highly-visible difference — one which has already rung bells to the tune of 39% of the Republican vote in only 8 states (at time of press).

Like the race for the White House or No.10, competition in the design and branding market is fierce and crowded. Many good-quality providers, very few clients. And you don’t get a four to five year break between pitches.

As any design manager will tell you, you really have to give them something distinctive to vote for. A good portfolio on its own isn’t enough.


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