Mar­ket­ing Mat­ters

The power of Trump’s brand will de­pend on his abil­ity to de­liver

Alberta Venture - - Contents - By Kyle B. Mur­ray

The en­dur­ing power of Trump’s brand will de­pend on his abil­ity to de­liver

On Jan­uary 20th, the U.S. will swear in the coun­try’s 45th Pres­i­dent: Don­ald Trump. That is shock­ing to many peo­ple. How was a po­lit­i­cal neo­phyte with lit­tle sup­port from his own party able to win a gen­eral elec­tion for the most pow­er­ful of­fice on the planet? A com­plete an­swer to that ques­tion is com­pli­cated, but there is no deny­ing that the per­sonal brand of Don­ald Trump played a cen­tral role. Not the brand he built as a real es­tate de­vel­oper or re­al­ity TV star, but the brand he in­vented as his po­lit­i­cal per­sona.

Per­sonal brand­ing is an idea that has be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar in re­cent years. His­tor­i­cally, brand­ing was about sell­ing prod­ucts. Mar­keters quickly re­al­ized, how­ever, that it was also im­por­tant and pow­er­ful in many other en­deav­ors. From gov­ern­ment ser­vices to em­ployee re­cruit­ing to char­ity fundrais­ing – brands mat­ter!

At the core of a great brand is a value propo­si­tion that is com­pelling to the tar­get au­di­ence. Trump’s suc­cess in this re­gard holds lessons for any­one in­ter­ested in per­sonal brand­ing. As a start­ing point con­sider how Trump clearly and con­cisely promised to “Make Amer­ica Great Again.” By do­ing so, he es­tab­lished how se­lect­ing him would ben­e­fit the voter. Ex­plain­ing the ben­e­fits of what­ever you are sell­ing is the first stage of a strong value propo­si­tion. It is rel­a­tively easy to do, re­quir­ing only that you iden­tify the value you plan to de­liver.

The sec­ond stage is dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion. What is dif­fer­ent and bet­ter about the ben­e­fits you are of­fer­ing as com­pared to the com­pe­ti­tion? This is a lit­tle more chal­leng­ing, as it re­quires not only that you un­der­stand what you are go­ing to do, but also what your com­peti­tors are up to. Trump, for ex­am­ple, was faced with a lineup of com­peti­tors who were pre­dom­i­nately ex­pe­ri­enced politi­cians. In re­sponse, he turned his neo­phyte sta­tus to his ad­van­tage and fo­cused on his suc­cess in busi­ness to dif­fer­en­ti­ate him­self. He con­sis­tently talked about his wealth, pointed out that he was pay­ing for his own cam­paign, and ex­plained how be­ing a tough ne­go­tia­tor meant he could bring back jobs and pros­per­ity. Fac­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton in the gen­eral elec­tion, he re­in­forced his out­sider sta­tus, but also adopted a few tra­di­tional Re­pub­li­can po­si­tions that fur­ther dif­fer­en­ti­ated him as fis­cally and so­cially con­ser­va­tive. Through­out the cam­paign, Trump con­sis­tently and clearly es­tab­lished that he was un­like other pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates.

The third stage of a strong value propo­si­tion – by far the most im­por­tant and dif­fi­cult – is en­sur­ing that what is dif­fer­ent about you is rel­e­vant to your au­di­ence. It also helps if you can be rel­e­vant to a large group of peo­ple whom oth­ers have over­looked. This is hard to do in a com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment be­cause every­one is try­ing to con­nect with the seg­ments that they be­lieve are most im­por­tant. Trump ex­celled at this and he found an ea­ger au­di­ence: one that felt mis­treated, un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated and un­der­served. He then made sure that he dif­fer­en­ti­ated him­self in a way that would res­onate. Al­though many peo­ple strongly op­pose Trump as pres­i­dent, many oth­ers saw him as the best avail­able choice and more than 61 mil­lion Amer­i­cans voted for him. Strong brands – from Ap­ple to Har­ley David­son to Marvel comics – can be suc­cess­ful with­out ap­peal­ing to every­one.

In de­scrib­ing the value propo­si­tion, I may have made the process sound en­tirely ra­tio­nal. It is not. In fact, it is crit­i­cally im­por­tant that your brand con­nects on an emo­tional level. Many great brands are de­fined by the abil­ity to bond with their tar­get au­di­ence. That’s why we talk about the cult of Ap­ple or the Har­ley David­son com­mu­nity or Marvel’s fan­dom. What Trump ac­com­plished was not driven by an in­tel­lec­tual ar­gu­ment for a bet­ter Amer­ica; it was a prom­ise to make the coun­try great again. That is a pow­er­ful emo­tional ap­peal.

But this all comes with a big caveat: brands weaken and even­tu­ally break when be­hav­iour con­sis­tently fails to meet ex­pec­ta­tions. You can prom­ise great­ness – whether that is ex­ceed­ing your quar­terly key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors, turn­ing your app into the next Face­book or grow­ing your lo­cal cof­fee shop into the next Star­bucks – but then you must de­liver. It is much eas­ier for Trump to talk about mak­ing Amer­ica great again than it is to fix the com­plex prob­lems fac­ing the coun­try. It is one thing to claim you are a strong ne­go­tia­tor who will build a wall and get Mex­ico to pay for it, and an­other to make that hap­pen. Go­ing for­ward, the power of Trump’s brand will de­pend on his abil­ity to de­liver as pres­i­dent. He doesn’t need to be per­fect, but he will need to pro­duce re­sults. When it comes to per­sonal brand­ing, you can say what­ever you want, but ul­ti­mately it’s what you do that mat­ters.

When it comes to per­sonal brand­ing, you can say what­ever you want, but ul­ti­mately it’s what you do that mat­ters.

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