Throughout the presidential campaign, the political establishment continually misread the pulse of the nation. They were aided and abetted by a tone deaf media that also misread public sentiment.
Marketing 101: know your audience. There are many Marketing lessons that can be learned by how President-elect Donald Trump ran circles around the political establishment.
The first lesson is the message is more important than the messenger. This will upset many in the advertising field that fall over themselves to get celebrity endorsements. The truth is most people do not respond to over-paid, over-hyped stars. They respond to the message. Trump found the message that resonated with most people. His slogan “Make America Great Again” was lampooned by his opponents but it worked.
Trump’s value proposition was selling a vision of America most not in the Millennial age group understand. The value of a strong America raises every socio-economic group which resonates to anyone that see beyond their eyes.
Time and again I heard Trump was the wrong messenger. Of course, that came from the same rocket scientists cooking the polls so consider the source. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, had no message. “I am not him” is not a value proposition. Trump sold a vision while Clinton was selling herself to the highest bidders.
The second lesson goes back to Marketing 101. Trump knew his audience and market. He understood the frustration of many in the nation and expertly directed his message to that base audience. While the political establishment wagered on political incorrectness to be his downfall, they completely missed the point. Trump made a mockery of their playbook. And they continue to not understand their constituents.
I think they need to attend Political Establishment Anonymous meetings to help them see what any non-liberal knows is true.
Trump understood the nation’s frustration with political correctness and the Thought Police stripping society of individual thought and freedom to express those thoughts. He became a symbol most people aspire to become. They relished in his ability to thumb his nose at the political elite.
I am not a Trump supporter but I enjoyed his Houdini act every time the political establishment tried to take him down. Their tactics work on other political establishment types but not on him. It was that air of invincibility most people admired.
Trump knew – and knows – what buttons to push to differentiate himself from the rest. To some he is breath of fresh air with his rhetoric and pugilistic approach. He likes to say he doesn’t start fights but punches back. That is open to conjecture but his audience loved his daring, his tenacity and his never-say-die attitude. That rugged individualism is what made America great in the first place. He personified it and whether it was an act or not remains to be seen. Regardless he sold the image.
Another lesson is positioning. In the Republican Primary, he stole the outsider mantle from Senator Ted Cruz and, one can make a case, from Governor Chris Christie. Once he had that position everyone else had to find another sandbox for their toys. Many politicians position themselves as outsiders but are the ultimate insiders. Trump is no different as he traveled in political circles throughout his life. He never held a public office which helped but the reality is he convinced us he was an outsider. In the general election he successfully positioned Hillary Clinton as the standard bearer for the establishment or business as usual.
Finally, know your competition. Trump knew who he was up against but the arrogant fools underestimated him. He successfully got under Governor Jeb Bush’s skin and befuddled Governor John Kaisich and Senator Marco Rubio. He knew their strength and weaknesses and adroitly determined his opportunities and threats. He relentlessly attacked their egos and drove them to distraction.
And the fools still believe they can view Trump through the prism of the political establishment. Some people just never learn. At one point they will realize they could have been him if they just listened to the people. And that is the biggest secret of a good marketer. The ability to listen to the audience, understand and fill their needs.
However, the biggest lesson yet to be learned is can a business man dispel the conventional wisdom that you cannot run a government like a business!