How a marketing strategy made Donald Trump president

5 min read
Apr 29, 2024 1:10:21 PM
"The best marketer has been elected president," was the conclusion of marketing guru David Meerman Scott when Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States. According to many, a sophisticated marketing strategy that often defied the traditional laws of marketing contributed to Donald Trump now being the most powerful man on earth. In this blog, I dive deeper into the key elements of Donald Trump's (digital) marketing methodology and the lessons we as marketers can take from it. Or not.

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1. Consistency is the key

One of the points that makes Donald's marketing strategy so strong is consistency. It should no longer be a secret that Trump actually prefers to be on Twitter all day. During his campaign, he tweeted at least 10 times a day and even now that he is president, he likes to revert to the 140 characters to share his message - and especially his opinion - with the world. And in doing so, he cleverly plays into the current digital generation.

And that generation is constantly looking for the latest news. Just think about it: how often do you look at your phone within an hour? Trump cleverly capitalizes on this by himself throwing a consistent and authentic stream of messages onto the web. So that he remains under constant attention.

Marketers can learn something from this approach. With a message that you spread consistently, you reach a much larger audience than if you shout something different every so often. Moreover, show humanity. After all, you're communicating with people, not robots.

Keep it simple

Ask people what Donald Trump's campaign was all about and a large proportion will unhesitatingly answer, "Make America Great Again" and "Our Government Is Screwing You.

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With just nine words and two slogans, Trump was able to make the connection with millions of voters. Moreover, they are two statements he has never abandoned. Some candidates try different messages and slogans for different audiences, but Trump has stuck to one message from the beginning.

The lesson for us marketers? Choose a simple message whose intent is immediately clear and be true to it. This way, you create recognition within your target audience and they can identify with your message.

3. Go "inbound," not "outbound.

Trump's opponents during the campaign followed the "old rules of marketing" - an outbound marketing strategy. They relied mostly on advertising; sending messages to a targeted audience that they believed was the right audience. Outbound marketing is a more traditional form of marketing, but in this digital age, it may be somewhat "out-dated.

Trump used a very different method in his strategy: inbound marketing. Instead of buying up ads and email lists hoping for qualified leads, he and his team focused on creating quality content that drew people toward his message. Moreover, he distributed that content wherever his target audience was: on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. In other words: online. He knew how to reach the people he wanted to reach and didn't gamble on a method that might reach the right people, but might not.

And that's a wise lesson for marketers: "sending" channels such as advertisements, cold calling and brochures make less sense in today's digital age because people search for information themselves - via the Internet. They no longer base their choice on what others tell them, but on the information they find themselves. And for that you need to show your face where your target audience is.

4. Throw unwritten social media rules out the window

To avoid blunders on social media and the potentially dire consequences of them, there is a social media etiquette that companies actually always follow:

  • Don't say negative things about the competition
  • Keep your work and personal lives separate
  • Respond immediately to any negativity and clear up the issue immediately

Trump is not playing the game by these rules. And yet social media is the most important part of his digital marketing strategy.

Twitter is the place to be for Trump to express his thoughts, views and feuds. With direct attacks on everyone - from Hollywood actresses to Barack Obama - he has never shied away from controversy on social media. And given the outcome of the election, this did not prove to be a "campaign killer. And now that he has taken his seat in the Oval Office, his "rants" have not antagonized him either.

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Trump is showing that shying away from confrontation on social media may not always be the best plan of action. But the question is, do you want that? Because with Trump it works, but would it fall the right way for your organization?

5. Any PR is good PR

Donald Trump is without a doubt the president most talked about and written about. In fact, during the election campaign, some media did not wonder if there was too much talk about him.

The massive media coverage was precisely Trump's intention and part of his strategy. One could argue that the media and opponents played along with his game when he attacked one of his opponents again, for example. The result? Trump talked about Trump, the media talked about Trump and his opponents talked about Trump.

Still, much of the media coverage is not directly in his favor, but he never flinches and always responds to criticism. In fact, he goes full on attack. Why? His name is constantly mentioned, whether positive or negative. And that keeps you constantly in the forefront and draws attention to you.

It is sometimes said that bad publicity is better than no publicity, but I doubt that. Bad PR is bad PR. Would you get involved with an organization that often gets negative press?

6. Stop count, start lying

Whereas presidents normally tell the truth to get their message across, Trump takes a different tack: spread untruths, lies and alternative facts to convince. After all, if you keep telling something long enough, you automatically start to believe it. Right? Those lies and distortions of the truth have done him no favors.

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Does that give everyone a license to lie? Just think aboutyourself: what do you think of an organization that attacks and ridicules its competitors? Or an organization that is more often reported negatively than positively? Or an organization that shares messages with the world that have been proven to be utterly false? I think I can guess the answer.

Donald Trump's marketing strategy is the linchpin behind his success, but a 1-to-1 copy is risky. Because while there are certainly elements you can learn something from as a marketer, there is little chance that adamant confrontations via social media, negative PR and spreading falsehoods and alternative facts will bring you the same success.

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