Branding Lessons from the Summer of Trump Part II

Branding Lessons from the Summer of Trump Part II

Mid-June marks the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s entrance into the current presidential election.

His unconventional ride down the golden escalator at Trump Tower generated a significant volume of curiosity, excitement, fear and ridicule from various parts of the political world. But, there is no disputing that Trump upended the race with his unique blend of personal branding, hot button issues, unconventional approach and relentless focus on the message of “Make America Great Again.”

In last summer’s blog post on the topic, I examined what marketers and communications professionals could learn about branding from Trump’s candidacy. Since it’s his campaign’s anniversary, I’ve decided to grade the campaign’s progress against those criteria from a branding standpoint. Here are my takeaways from last summer, and the grades I would give the Trump Campaign on each since then:

  • Control the narrative: Grade B. It’s hard to argue with the fact that he has dominated the primary cycle with an “any news is good news” approach. But, he is at risk of losing control of the narrative as the election moves to a broader audience and even more opponents attack.
  • The importance of being authentic to your brand: Grade A. He is personifying both the positive and negative stereotypes about his success as a “rich and tough” businessman.
  • Don’t try to mimic other brands: Grade A+: He owns this metric big time!
  • Once you find your voice, people pay attention: Grade C. People are paying attention, but the voice seems to be shifting from “America First” to “Trump First” since he captured the primary and it is hurting him in the polls.
  • A good brand strategy is about inspiring the future: Grade C. It is often said that fear sells, but he is at risk of losing his once powerful economic-oriented message as he wades into or creates the “breaking news of the day.”
  • Don’t over-extrapolate short-term success in niche markets by projecting it into the broader market: Grade C. Based on an analysis of online conversations (see the word cloud below), sentiment for or against him has not significantly changed over the past year. If you look at the latest polling data, it could suggest difficulties broadening his appeal down the home stretch.
  • A successful brand is usually measured by its staying power with the customers who matter most: Grade TBD. It is yet to be seen if his latest positions on immigration, walls, ISIS and guns will endear or repel the swing voters that will decide this election.
  • Know when to exit a favorable market: Grade TBD. Given Trump’s penchant for surprises, anything is possible.

So, those are my grades from a branding standpoint. Who will win in November? I really don’t know, but from a branding perspective, I find the campaign season so far to be utterly fascinating.

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Steve Halsey is Managing Director, Business Consulting, G&S Business Communications. Global businesses and brands seeking a competitive edge rely on Steve to find the best paths forward. In his role, Steve helps launch new products; build, protect and manage reputations; explore new concepts and models; and map out winning strategies that allow clients to increase their market share. He challenges conventional wisdom for B2B and B2C companies, providing clients with increased brand value, awareness with target audiences and loyalty. Steve also oversees the agency’s digital and social media initiatives as well as research, insights and analytics teams, and he established G&S’ proprietary I Power™ strategy and messaging service. He is a member of the International Association of Business Communicators and Public Relations Society of America. An avid rugby player, Steve moves with agility to execute projects with powerful models that elevate brands.


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