Trump is NOT an Expert Marketer


trumpisnotamarketerCan we just stop, please.

Imagine for a minute that the world kept saying that Trump is an expert, master at your chosen craft. Builders feel the same reaction, as do business people, educators, food companies, and writers. He claims so many specialties I’m sure you can find one in his laundry list of businesses, but indulge me for a few minutes.

Trump is not an expert in marketing.

This is not meant to be a political post (although it will contain content that will offend), and it is not to be taken as a tit-for-tat opportunity. It is not a comparison to any campaign of another, it is merely a review of the marketing areas since he has been called out and labeled a marketing genius {cringe}.
This is post is also using the assumption that the end goal/objective is to win the election, which is the approach that all other articles and posts touting the prowess of his marketing machine.

When I first started writing this I had examples to back all my points up, but they change so quickly to better examples of how he is not good at marketing. So instead I think we can all come up with our own examples, on any given day.

So let’s take a look at some of the areas of marketing, and how they should be interpreted.

  • Branding: Branding isn’t just about getting your name out there, it’s getting your BRAND out there. Who your brand is, what it stands for, remaining true to the mission and values it represents, and vigilantly living up to that in delivery and licensing. The Trump brand promotes luxury and success, and while they include that in their materials, they do not live up to the aspirations. There is no control over the implementation of the brand, and it is licensed seemingly without regard to legitimacy. This has allowed for the degradation of the brand through failures, bankruptcies, and bad reviews. There is a difference between branding and exposure.
  • Public Relations (PR): Public Relations is used to disseminate news, gain earned media coverage (news, editorials, articles, media coverage, etc.), and reputation management, often most visible during a time of crisis, but equally important as part of the other aspects listed.
    • Earned Media and Coverage – Arguably there are clear examples of earned media and coverage through the outlandish and outrageous comments and behavior. Without a doubt this has been the most productive use of PR, under the cliche of “There’s no such thing as bad press”. Except there is. Especially in this instance. And for marketing, there are times where this is appropriate, but as a consistent approach over a prolonged period of time it stops working. The escalation required to continually gain coverage eventually verges on insanity and instability. While it seems that won’t ever happen here, it has, as the underlying brand had been affected prior and bank loans on a brand with a bad reputation are no longer available through traditional routes.
    • Reputation/Crisis Management – This clearly is not part of the Trump repertoire when it comes to PR. This typically means getting in front of a story and providing a consistent explanation and story that diffuses the concern and provides a solution and a path forward. Effective PR is NOT a consistent approach of deflection and defense, and the counter attacking lacking in authenticity.
  • Audience Awareness:  I say this all the time, understand your audience. He had done that well, at least initially. He certainly read his audience and plays to what they want. He gives them the validation they crave. But he doesn’t know who his full audience is, and who’s watching and listening. Give the right message to the right audience in context of the platform that you are reaching them on. The problem with his approach is he assumed who is audience was, and did not take the time to understand all the different audiences, even within his own general audience, to properly address the nuances of his communications. This is the failure of developing robust personas, and variations of each within the target audiences, and not understanding the points that would go off course. (The consistent, continuous missteps when it comes to the military families is a significant deficit.)
  • Content marketing: There is not much content available. Nothing consistent, nothing verifiable, and nothing with substance. Even very few instances of speeches and clips beyond earned media replays. Biographies, websites, articles, even books have not been consistent in what has been provided. Some of the earlier works had a level of consistency and cohesiveness, working on the Art of the Deal book, game, appearances. But as the machine grew, the substance left, and then has been exposed as untrue. There is no consistent strategy apparent on disseminating content across media either for the brand or the candidate.
  • Social Media: Trump is active on social media, and uses multiple IDs across platforms to provide a team approach, while maintaining a main one that is designated as the voice of the candidate brand. They have also done a good job of promoting multiple channels, but identifying the strongest, most efficient one for their communication that matches the interests and behavior of the brand and the followers. Kudos for that one, Twitter. The tone has been consistent, and the 140 character limit matches the sound-byte attention of the user and audience, and releasing information first on the chosen platform, rewarding the audiences.  Good job on the basics of social media and how they use it to communicate. Well done … on the technicalities. I’m not sure I should say more on this one.
  • Influencer Marketing: This is a hot topic lately in the world of marketing, and having the individual as one of the supposed de facto influencers in one real area (business) would lead to the possibility for a more seamless option to become an influencer, and gain influencers, in the newest market for the brand, in the spirit of building on past successes. That, however, hasn’t worked. While the number of followers is impressive, and the reach enviable, the quality of the expertise is questionable, and has proven unverifiable in many instances. In addition, the core expertise has proven to be invalid in many areas.
  • Networking: Trump, the candidate, has been active in the business world for upwards of 40 years, building an international brand, with products and service offerings extending across industries, and culminating in a Reality TV show, including several years of a Celebrity program. Given the extensive network and celebrities in the circle, it is astonishing the lack of public support from those who have worked with, for, and around him.  He has an existing network only, while continually losing support from those in the extended network and base, at the same time not gaining strong supporters or endorsements. His network is in a crisis of attrition, not just for the short term election, but overall for the brand at large.In the realm that he is entering now, he is not networking well and instead, is alienating more “power brokers” and those of influence and connectors. Corroboration by peers and top level experts in the field has remained unavailable. Instead, counter-validation has been stronger, as more peers and supporters with credibility step back.
  • Paid media (Including digital): This has been limited at this point and thus far has not provided a value add statement, only comparisons, and have been geo-targeted. This may improve. (I live in what has been identified as a battleground state, and therefore should be exposed to ads by both campaigns and their PACs). I have seen only Facebook ads, asking me to donate large quantities of money (I think the latest is over $180) and I will receive a signed copy of his book Art of the Deal. In a state he is addressing about lost jobs and labeling as a depressed economy, arrogantly challenging big leaguers to donate a large quantity does not resonate with the audience.
  • Email marketing: This has proven to be an abject failure, using a purchase or ill-acquired list, using a non-white-listed ESP resulting in blocking and marking as spam, sending illegally and not following rules and laws. The email was not permission-based and was not targeted (sending to non-supporters and international government representatives, which is illegal.). In addition, the content of the emails thus far have not followed any junior level benchmarks for subject lines, calls to action, or writing ability.
  • Cause Marketing: There was an attempt at this, mention of it and discussion. But the outcome did not align with the message. There was no transparency, no follow through, and no validation. The audience was left feeling duped when the cause they were contributing to did not get the support they were promised. This broke a promise and impugned credibility, with a cause and population that is dear to the heart of the country, and has been a hallmark group for his party (veterans).
  • Authenticity: This continues to be a question and grows.
  • Identity: This is the graphic portion of the branding, including the logo, domain names, letter head, email design and templates, etc. The consistency across the social and digital platforms is strong and in line with the stated branding. The incorporation of the addition of the VP did not go well at all. Even the now revised one does not align well, the kerning and leading off, and acquiring the digital domains never happened.
  • Event: This doesn’t go well. Using the announcement of the VP as an example, there was an utter absence of coordination and even marketing involved. There was no press release, no domain name acquisition, no coordination with other campaigns, or platforms or channels. Visually, in most instances this is handled well, with the exception of the speaking in front of a wall of crushed metal. The thinking behind it was evident, showing steel and aluminum to convey the message in front of an audience he was addressing, but the presentation served to show him speaking in front of a pile of discarded waste.

Tactics without strategy

The conclusion is that clearly there is no strategy, he uses only tactics. That is further evidenced by the constant changing of direction and messages.

PT Barnum

Trump is not an expert marketer. This public stage has only shown us that he does not know the first thing about marketing. In fact, he even indicates that he is all about the deal, and closing the deal.

That’s not marketing, that’s sales.

The rest is using his image as the tool to close the deal. He’s a sales hawk, but that’s not fair to sales people. (And yes, that’s a marketer saying he’s being unfair to sales people!)

He’s a con artist.

But Will it Work?

Con artists have been successful for centuries. Quick wins = money. But Trump has money, now he wants power. Or does he. Even now he’s indicated that he might just let his VP do the work, after he wins the contest. This has all been so irregular, that we simply don’t know how it will play out. So lets look at the funnel.

  • Leads = primaries. He won the primary, so he certainly got the leads.
  • Prospects = supporters. He has backers and followers, and we can see the commitment level based on polling numbers.
  • Conversions =Votes. That we’ll have to see come election night.

If he wins, then we take it further, to see if this is repeatable or sustainable beyond the close. Does he have the marketing, sales, customer service chops to deliver?

In a Nutshell

At it’s core, Marketing is about communicating with your audience in a way that makes them want your product. Yes, he is connecting with his target audience (and that is a frightening prospect on it’s own), but there is an utter lack of authenticity, honesty, and integrity.

Truth in advertising and Truth in marketing are important to ongoing, long term success. Short of that, it’s all just shilling, for a short term agenda.

NOTE: Truth in advertising FCC regulations do not apply to politics. That was part of a bill that passed with the GOP controlled Congress.

Weigh in, do you think Donald Trump is a good marketer? If so, why?


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