Marketers: 3 Pieces of Advice, Courtesy of the Trump Campaign

Blog Post by Jonathan Gray

The contentious election season put a spotlight on a lot of things — the most under-discussed facet, perhaps, being the power of marketing.From a marketing standpoint, customers vote every day. This election highlights marketing tactics that worked for Donald Trump and can work for you. He leveraged smart marketing strategies in a very unconventional campaign, riding the wave all the way to victory. Marketers can learn from his strategic approach.
The now President-elect stayed on offense instead of playing defense. He found the message his key target voters wanted to hear, shouted it as loud and as long as he could, and harped on his opponent’s character rather than focusing on issues. His campaign’s effective marketing strategies led to a historic upset and serve as a great reminder for all marketers.

Presidential Pointers
Think what you want about Trump the person, but there is a definite genius to the marketing approach he used in his campaign. He was the bull in the china shop that turned the election on its head. He didn’t try to portray himself as someone he isn’t; rather he used his marketing savvy, avid social media presence, and unique personality to his advantage.
The amazing thing is his approach worked when the smart money said it wouldn’t. Here are three lessons all marketers should learn — or be reminded of — from Trump’s incredible election run:

1. Don’t worry about everyone — focus on the few. Trump didn’t try to appeal to everyone. He identified the constituency that would be the key to his success, and then crafted a message to motivate that specific target audience.
Trump’s message hit the bull’s-eye — It resonated and created an emotional response prompting everyone to run to the polls. During the election, he found data suggesting that a silent portion of the population harbored anger toward the current political climate.
He focused on it, empathizing specifically to that audience and its pains. From there, Trump used that information to craft a message that would prompt them to vote instead of standing on the sidelines on Election Day.
Marketers should remember to clarify which audience matters most and know what motivates it. Stay true to the platform, and convey a message the audience can’t help but rally around.

2. Out-shout your competition. In some cases, Trump turned up the volume (in terms of reach and especially frequency) to deliver his message. His outrageous statements, tweets, and accusations of media bias ensured he would get airtime.
He was everywhere. In the final days leading up to the election, Trump TV ads hammered the airwaves with messages that attacked his opponent’s character, overwhelming the more measured and sometimes defensive voice of the Clinton campaign.
Marketers: To win, don’t just have a great message for the right audience. Be louder than the competition. If the market is highly competitive and commoditized, leverage all the communications channels, venues, tools, and tactics out there to out shout the competition.

3. Play offense more than defense. “Perception is reality,” Lee Atwater once said. In this election, Trump’s campaign on character became the pivot point. He drove perception about Clinton’s character, spreading fear and doubt about email leaks and corruption.
He reminded the public of Clinton’s email discrepancy every chance he got. He planted uncertainty within the voter base and deepened the distrust constituents already held toward the democratic candidate.
No stranger to wrong-side-of-the-news stories himself, Trump used the accusations to fuel his message against the “politics as usual” image Clinton conveyed. But, rather than defending himself, he used debate podiums, TV appearances, even Twitter rants, to drive home his message on Clinton’s character.
His mission? To continually cast a shadow over her candidacy. Clinton had to play defense, right? It reminds me of when I marketed a high-speed internet service during the DSL versus cable battle years ago.
At the time, cable could tout the higher speed of its shared network. So DSL had to focus on the fear of internet speed slowing on the shared cable network, as well as fear of price increases. Our positioning represented facts, but played on FUD — fear, uncertainty, and doubt to create an emotional connection to our message. In this election, scandals fueled the FUD messaging machine.
For marketers, we’ve been taught to protect the brand at all costs, which became a top priority for Clinton. But in an election decided on one specific date, the most important thing for Trump was to have voters at the polls thinking what he wanted when they placed their vote. What the realities are become moot, because the voter’s perception at that moment determines their selection.
President-elect Donald Trump showed his marketing genius through his campaign, and it serves as a great reminder to all in the industry. Stay on message, be loud, and play offense.
After all, customers vote every day. The question is: Are they voting for you?

Jonathan Gray is the senior vice president of marketing and leader of business development and marketing services for Revana. His team oversees marketing analytics and integrated marketing services programs that automate electronic marketing strategies on behalf of industry-leading clients. He was involved in developing new digital marketing and sales solutions, such as Revana Analytic Multichannel Platform (RAMP) and Revana AQ360SM , which won a Gold Stevie as the 2016 Best New Marketing Solution.

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Written by

Jonathan Gray

Senior Vice President
Business Development & Marketing Services