The Trumping of America
In September 2015, I predicted Donald Trump would win the White House because of his mastery of psychology-based marketing. He did not prove me wrong, for better or worse.
While I don’t want to discuss the pros and cons of Trump's win, I do want to review the lessons his campaign presence demonstrated. Successful branding comes with an understanding of human psychology, which enables us to tap into our audience's emotions, thoughts, behavior, votes and purchases.
I will reiterate Trump's successful campaign strategies:
"I’m Just Like You"
Trump's goofy, off-the-cuff persona made him real and approachable. He was not polished, like the politicians he promised to “drain from the swamp.” Instead, he was candid, said things he shouldn’t have, and sniffed and grumbled, like all of us do. He was human.
Follow the Winner
From the beginning of the campaign all of the way to the end, Trump’s stump speeches all followed the same theme: “I’m winning. Here, there and everywhere. And I’m winning bigly.”
Life is a popularity contest and any publicity is good publicity. Trump successfully attracted massive amounts of media attention by acting outrageously: People just couldn’t resist talking about it. The media has played along his whole life — even more so during the campaign. His shenanigans stole attention from Hillary Clinton in the weeks leading up to the election, and that was the last nail in her coffin. He had won the media war.
Trump Campaign Conclusion
These tactics all cater to the basic fundamentals of human psychology. The fundamentals are so powerful that they trumped reason and rationality in this election. Hillary's campaign rationale — Who could vote for a person like him — fell on deaf ears and silent media channels. I'll explain why, along with some insights on how these principles can apply to your brand positioning.
Your Labels Matter
We don’t line up to follow suspected losers in important situations. From the beginning of the primary, Trump used the power of suggestion to insinuate his win and declare his opponents weak. He brilliantly labelled them with characteristics that made them seem unfit to lead, systematically removing them from the race with nicknames. “Low-Energy Jeb,” “Lyin’ Ted,” “Nervous Rubio” — you remember. These names ingrained subconscious messages in the public's mind. Trump seemed to be the only one with the confidence, composure and strength to win.
Insight: What labels are you using for your brand? Your promise? And the value you deliver? How are you labeling your competitors?
Your Irrational Supporters
Clinton lost the election in part because she took the bait. Rather than focus on her own capabilities, she focused on Trump's character. Meanwhile, Trump knew that once he had secured the foundations of his support, Middle America, nothing would sway their support for him. He said it himself when he said he could shoot someone and still be loved enough to win.
Trump swiftly created cultish loyalty. Even when the sexual assault scandals surfaced, supporters rallied behind him to prove the rumors wrong. This was irrational — but more importantly, evangelical. His supporters dismissed all of the wrongdoing and worked hard to convert others to their position. This is parallel to religious zealots working hard to convert others to their faith without hard proof of the religion's validity; the experience is akin to a dopamine rush, based on the anticipation of a reward.
Insight: What are you doing to create such happy customers that they will fight for your brand’s reputation, and spend their personal energy and reputation convincing others to support you? Can you come up with spellbinding customer journeys and fanatical customer service? Can you come up with ideas that trump all of your competitors, no matter what you offer or do?
Your Headlines Matter
Content: not so much. Trump proved this again. When the Access Hollywood tapes got released (by whom?), Trump flooded the headlines. CNN and Fox News were saturated with Trump coverage for the last three weeks of the campaign. This timing alone effectively made Hillary invisible.
Trump supporters took to the airwaves to support and defend him, while the media used his sound bites and headlines to gain viewers and ratings. Hillary had to use Beyoncé and Jay-Z to get even a five minute coverage window.
All of Trump's publicity was free and fastened his name to the public's mind. Reports show his campaign spent the least among of any U.S. presidential candidate in the modern era.
Insight: Get noticed. Grab attention and make headlines. Do something worth talking and posting about. Spread the word to every blogger and influencer in your industry, as well as every relevant online newsletter and publicity outlet. Get your name out there. People flock to popular brands just like they do candidates. People perceive the best-known as the best.
While you don’t have to throw integrity out the window to win sales and loyalty, you do have to know the basics of the psychology of choice. And you have to play by these rules. When it comes to human nature, the rules don’t change. Never have, never will.
Jeanette McMurtry is a psychology-based marketing expert providing strategy, campaign development, and sales and marketing training to brands in all industries on how to achieve psychological relevance for all aspects of a customer's experience. She is the author of the recently released edition of “Marketing for Dummies” (Fifth Edition, Wiley) and “Big Business Marketing for Small Business Budgets” (McGraw Hill). She is a popular and engaging keynote speaker and workshop instructor on marketing psychology worldwide. Her blog will share insights and tactics for engaging B2B and B2C purchasers' unconscious minds which drive 90 percent of our thoughts, attitudes and behavior, and provide actionable and affordable tips for upping sales and ROI through emotional selling propositions. Her blog will share insights and tactics for engaging consumers' unconscious minds, which drive 90 percent of our thoughts and purchasing attitudes and behavior. She'll explore how color, images and social influences like scarcity, peer pressure and even religion affect consumers' interest in engaging with your brand, your message and buying from you. Reach her at Jeanette@e4marketingco.com.