Donald Trump doesn’t care what you think.
He’s famous, notorious, infamous, and ridiculous. But is he the world’s best marketer? (I think we can all guess what The Donald’s answer to that is).
Read on and I’ll tell you mine...
There Really is No Such Thing as Bad Publicity for Donald Trump
The idea that any publicity is good publicity has been around for over 100 years.
US circus owner, showman, businessman, and politician P. T. Barnum is credited popularising it, along with the philosophy: 'there's a sucker born every minute' – something Trump no doubt follows.
However, even Barnum might expect there to be a line where what you do or say damages your brand. Not so with Trump.
You could spend days debating what counts for bad PR with Trump – he has his own Wikipedia category to list the highlights.
Just some of the controversies to his name are:
Russian interference in his Presidential election
Sympathising with white supremacists
His Supreme Court nomination, Brett Kavanaugh, being investigated by the FBI for rape
You can find a rundown of Trump’s first year in office in this video:
A lesser brand would have collapsed.
Not The Donald.
He takes the lead from brand king of marketing, Coca Cola.
Coca Cola rule the drinks world for a simple reason, it’s marketing is, and has been, better than any other drinks brand. But even Coca Cola has suffered bad PR. And like Trump, it was of Coca Cola’s own making.
In 1985 Coca Cola launched ‘New Coke,’ a new recipe that canned the old one. The drink stank so much that Coca Cola received over 40,000 letters of complaint. That bad PR was turned into great publicity when the original recipe was brought back as Coca Cola Classic.
The result was that sales went through the roof.
Donald Trump doesn’t need to relaunch. He just pushes on.
For every controversy that attacks his brand, he remains in office. And he’ll run for re-election in 2020, with Michael Moore convinced Trump will win and stay on beyond that term:
Selling Dreams (which he has no plan to deliver)
Tony Blair ran New Labour’s 1997 election campaign based on a simple message: 'Things can only get better.' It provided the soundtrack to New Labour’s party political broadcast and was supplied by D:Ream.
Great marketing has always been about selling a dream.
Showing your audience how the thing you’re offering them will make their lives better. And then making them believe it. It’s one of the rules Don Draper lives by.
It’s the skill that separates the good marketers from the best marketers. Trump knows this and exploits it, just like other businesses.
'Make America Great Again.' The slogan drove Trump from candidate, to nominate, to president. It’s simple, evocative, offers everything, and promises no way of doing this other than its author said so.
As a businessman and a salesman, Trump knows this is how successful businesses go from zip to the sh**.
It’s why startups like Live Fabulously Boutique choose their name based on a promise to make their customers lives fabulous – because it turns them from a brand started by a mother of two in their spare time, to an online business that's now for sale for nearly a million dollars.
And Trump doesn’t even need to mean what he says.
Make America Great Again was about helping America’s poorest people. Yet Trump has changed the tax laws of America to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor.
Trump has made himself richer and his supporters poorer. Yet Trump’s supporters still believe in his dream.
That doesn’t make Trump the best marketer, that makes him a genius:
Living in the age of Donald Trump
Whatever your thoughts of Donald Trump, he’s shifted the landscape around what people can do to sell their brand. He’s been accused of lying, cheating, and stealing. Of playing with people’s emotions and distorting reality. Of making a virtue of speaking your mind, instead of the truth.
He’s created enemies in order to sell himself as a saviour. He’s polarised like few politicians have done in recent times. He’s taking America and the world down a drain that might drown everyone, all to advance his own brand.
The thing is, these are all things that marketers have been doing since the dawn of marketing.
In 1919 Dr William Frederick Koch claimed to have invented a drug that would cure 'all human ills, including tuberculosis.' Koch’s drug was just water and he was run out of America by the FDA.
Listerine’s makers said it was able to cure everything – from colds to dandruff. The FDA disagreed in 1975 and fined Listerine $75million.
Kellogg claimed its Frosted Mini-Wheats made children 20% more attentive. Kellogg was made to retract its claim.
For all the noise about impeachment, all the calls for imprisonment, the simple suggestion that Trump might apologise for what he says and does, The Donald presses forwards.
Donald Trump might not be the world’s greatest marketer. Donald Trump might not be able to spell marketer. But credit where credit is due.
He’s sold America the dream, has bent the truth to counter any claims that he’s not delivering the dream, still has his supporters dreaming the dream, and none of the bad publicity he’s received has stopped him.
Most brands would kill for marketing that good.
Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. On her blog, VictoriaEcommerce, you’ll find all sorts of marketing articles – social media, content, email, direct, and more.
Vicky G did not vote for Trump in 2016.