What Marketers Can Learn From Donald Trump

When I heard that Donald Trump had entered the 2016 presidential race, I laughed. When Trump’s poll numbers began steadily climbing and ultimately dominated his competitors, I cringed. When I watched him during the first two Republican debates, it was with my hands covering my eyes.

Trump may have defied the predictions of political experts early on, but in the end, his campaign has reinforced a few basic, yet essential marketing tenets.

Outrageous, attention-grabbing statements don’t always stand the test of time.

The Donald grabbed the attention of voters everywhere when he announced his candidacy and issued a gross mischaracterization of illegal immigrants. In the wake of these comments, he faced significant backlash and lost important business partnerships with Macy’s, NBC, and Univision. The issue of immigration continued to be a key component of his platform, but his rhetoric was toned down a bit—likely at the desperate request of his advisors.

Takeaway for Marketers: While a bold statement might be great for gaining exposure quickly, it will likely fall flat unless tested, valid, and defendable.

A deep understanding of the key industry issues is essential to success. 

Kurds or Quds. Hamas or Hezbollah. What’s the difference, really? After Trump fumbled a series of foreign policy questions during a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, he claimed that he would know the details of and the difference between these groups when it was “appropriate.” Trump had clearly not done his homework on these foreign policy issues and wasn’t equipped to speak about them intelligibly. As a person seeking to represent the US to the rest of the world, Trump should have realized that a deep and broad understanding of all foreign policy issues is a given.

Takeaway for Marketers: As crucial as understanding the details of your own business is understanding the landscape of your industry as a whole, including the history, nuances, and audience of your competition. This understanding is key to informing your strategy, messaging, and tactics.

Money is not a silver bullet.

Trump is far and away the wealthiest of all 2016 presidential candidates. He could likely foot the bill for his own campaign and still greatly outspend every other candidate. However, that doesn’t mean that his campaign will be successful. Money can buy a lot of things, but a win on Election Day surely isn’t one of them.

Takeaway for Marketers: You can invest oodles of dollars in a marketing campaign, but if your message isn’t spot on and your product isn’t solid, that money could all go to waste.

Though Trump started his campaign with a bang and skyrocketed to the top of the polls, it seems that his moment in the spotlight may be waning. His competitors and campaign reporters are shining a light on his every misstep, and voters seem to be disenchanted with his baseless platform promises and less-than-politically-correct rhetoric.

In politics as with marketing, success can only be found when you implement messages that are tested, strategies that are informed, and tactics that are solid.

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