7 Lessons from Donald Trump’s Marketing Campaign Success

Donald Trump inexplicably won the Republican nomination and is close to Hillary Clinton in the general election run. Despite characteristics that would have disqualified anyone else, such as overt racism, sexism, consistent lying, and inexperience in politics, Trump has rallied a solid and loyal base of supporters who gravitate towards his message while overlooking his flaws. With every new feud, scandal, lie, and idiocy, he continues to maintain fans. So how does he do it?

In this article, we’ll look specifically at the marketing tactics of Donald Trump and his campaign. This in no way endorses or justifies the methods he uses to gain support, as it often fosters ignorance and hate.

However, we’ll drill down to the pure tactics themselves and see how they correlate with human psychology, see how that has been effective in his campaign, and how you can apply those same tactics in your own marketing, but in a good and honest way.

Trump may not be a qualified politician or leader, but he is a businessman and reality TV show star, so he knows how to capture, engage, and convince an audience.

Let’s dive in.

1. Trump Knows His Target Market

Trump Knows His Target Market

From Donald Trump’s first speech announcing his candidacy, he knew who he was after. His speech was extremely offensive and not well-received by a vast majority of people, including most Republicans. Most people thought that would’ve ended his bid right away.

But he wasn’t after most people. That speech was intended for a very small and specific audience. They were primarily individuals who would identify with the far right Tea Party. And he chose that audience because they are loud, strongly opinionated, highly emotional, and politically active. Therefore, they would be the best group to carry his message towards mass adoption. He knew their values and he spoke directly to them.

[bctt tweet=”When everyone is your potential customer, no one becomes your customer.” username=”sparkflowco”]

With your product or service, it’s easy to want to appeal to everyone. But when everyone is your potential customer, no one becomes your customer. Be very specific about who you’re marketing to. In your brand messaging, speak in a way that would exclude a majority of your visitors, but resonate deeply with your ideal customer. Speak in a way where they feel like you’re speaking directly to them.

2. Trump Knows His Target Market’s Pain

Trump Knows His Target Market's Pain

When Trump knows his target market, he knows what they’re struggling with. The demographics of his target market are mostly white, middle-aged people with middle-income blue collar jobs living in the Rust Belt of America.

So their primary concern is jobs. As industrial companies have shrunk, shut down, or moved overseas, this demographic is seeing a loss in jobs. Even though overall unemployment in the US has gone down, tech jobs are booming, and the economy is recovering, people in this demographic don’t see that. Their pain is personal because it affects them.

So when Donald Trump talks about how we’re losing jobs overseas, how we’re losing to everyone, and how horrible America is, he isn’t talking to everyone. He’s talking to his target market. He also doesn’t talk about issues that wouldn’t concern his target market, such as foreign policy, civil rights, or clean energy, because his target market doesn’t care about that. They care about their pain, and Trump can articulate their pain to them.

To connect to your audience, you need to know their pain. What are they struggling with? What do they desire? When you can tell your audience what their problem is better than they can articulate it themselves, they’ll be more ready to listen to your solution. People trust you and connect with you more when they feel like you understand what they’re going through. That’s empathy.

3. Trump Identifies and Simplifies the Source of the Problem

Trump Identifies and Simplifies the Source of the Problem

When people are hurting from losing their jobs, there are a lot of different things they can be angry about. But in order to move people towards a solution, you need to identify the source of the problem. For Trump, he found an easy scapegoat in immigrants.

Donald Trump builds his campaign on how immigrants steal jobs, bring in crime, and are terrorists. Though it’s factually and statistically untrue, it doesn’t matter. It’s a broad but simple concept to understand. It also plays on a lot of underlying suspicions his target market already has. Essentially, it’s putting clear words to their jumbled thoughts.

When addressing your customer’s pain points – and they may have several – you need to be able to pinpoint a single source for their problem. Even though their problem may be complex, make it simple. Your customers need an explanation and reason for the problem before they can take the steps to resolve it.

4. Trump Offers a Simple Tangible Solution

Trump Offers a Simple Tangible Solution

Trump has offered several solutions to the problems he has identified. Build a wall, deport all illegal immigrants, ban Muslims, and bring jobs back to America. These solutions are either unfeasible or unconstitutional, and so they’ll never happen. But they are popular because of how they make people feel.

They directly address the core pain and problem – that there are no jobs and immigrants are to blame. Notice that the solutions aren’t very descriptive – he never gives any policy details as to how they will actually be accomplished because they’re not realistic. Instead, he focuses the simplicity of the benefit that it will provide – more jobs and no immigrants or terrorists.

[bctt tweet=”People don’t care about what your product can do, only if it will solve their problem.” username=”sparkflowco”]

When describing a product or service, it’s really easy to list out all the different features of what you offer. This often results in information overload and potential customers glaze over it. People don’t care about what your product can do. They just want to know if it will solve their problem. It’s ok to list out all your features in a different section, but you should first provide a simple, understandable solution that clearly takes away the customer’s problem.

5. Trump Creates a Simple Narrative

7 Lessons from Donald Trump's Marketing Campaign Success

We just covered Trump’s entire campaign platform. Sure, he goes off into other tangents about trade, crime, and taxes, but he returns to the same narrative fairly consistently:

America is horrible right now. You have no jobs. Immigrants are stealing your jobs. They’re also bringing crime and terrorism. So we need to get rid of immigrants by building a wall, kicking them out, and banning Muslims. Then, jobs will come back to America and we’ll be safe. We’ll make America great again.

If you dissect that message, it actually makes no logical sense and isn’t founded on any real data. Yet people gravitate towards it and believe in it, even in spite of the facts that disprove it. That’s because people long for meaning more than truth. They need to make sense of their world, and facts and reality are often too complicated to understand. Therefore when there’s a clear and simple narrative that can identify their pain and offer a solution, people want that.

[bctt tweet=”People long for meaning more than truth.” username=”sparkflowco”]

Hopefully with your brand, you actually do provide a real solution for your customers. If your customers bought your product or service, they would benefit from it. But you could be losing them in the noise of trying to describe how your product works. Focus instead on telling a simple narrative that’s easy to understand. Identify the pain and source of the problem. Tell them your solution takes away that problem. Then talk about what your product actually does.

6. Trump Uses Emotional Drivers

Trump Uses Emotional Drivers

Trump’s rise in political influence come from his rallies. As unpredictable as his temperament and positions are, he is extremely predictable when it comes to delivering off-the-cuff speeches. If you watch him speak, you’ll notice that he doesn’t really have a coherent train of thought. He doesn’t follow a script or outline, but rather says a lot of random phrases as he makes it up. Yet he is brilliant at reading an audience and playing to them.

As he floats different ideas, he watches and listens for their reaction. If people sit quietly and listen, he’ll keep moving on. But as people clap or cheer, he knows he’s hit an emotional nerve. He’ll stay on that thought and keep on hitting the same point. As the crowds clap and cheer more, he continues pushing that idea further and sees how far he can take it. That’s what results in his outrageous statements – he makes stuff up to draw out that primal emotional response. It’s a kind of narcissistic emotional intelligence – he loves the applause and will say anything to get it, and at the same time listens to people and tells them what they really want to hear.

People are extremely susceptible to emotions. As much as we like to believe that we think rationally, we don’t. We make decisions based on our emotions first and logic second. When forming beliefs and making decisions, our brain operates on two systems. The limbic (or feeling) part of our brain responds to our environment with primal emotions such as fear, anger, disgust, sadness, and happiness. This is where we make our initial decisions – it is fast and requires little mental energy. The cortex (or thinking) part of our brain processes logic and comprehension. It is slower and takes more energy. Therefore, our limbic system often makes a quick belief or decision first, then our cortex system tries to fill in the details and rationalize those decisions.

[bctt tweet=”People make decisions based on emotions first and logic second.” username=”sparkflowco”]

This is how Trump is able to catalyze die-hard supporters around his message who will ignore or reject reality. He hits first at their primal emotions of fear, anger and disgust and then provides a narrative to fit those emotions in. His supporters can then rationalize anything he says, even though they may be untrue, unrealistic, or even go in direct opposition of their values. This certainly is not restricted to Trump supporters, but to everyone. He just provides an excellent case study.

Successful brands use the susceptibility to emotion as an effective marketing tool, and you should too. It’s a tool that can be used for either deceit or positive persuasion. It’s speaking to the reality of human psychology. Sure, sleazy businesses and politicians can use it to manipulate people. But as an honest brand trying to sell good products and services, marketing to your customers’ emotions help to create a framework for people to understand the benefits of what you have to offer. If you can use their emotions to help them see that their problem is painful and that you are someone they can trust, they can begin the rationalize the features of your product. It you don’t speak to their emotions, they’ll decide that you aren’t trustworthy and rationalize a reason to not buy from you, no matter how great your offer may be.

7. Trump Uses Repetition

Trump Uses Repetition

Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump has famously used and overused his catch phrase “Make America Great Again.” Don’t underestimate the power of a good slogan, no matter how cheesy it is. Some of the most successful businesses had good slogans that transcended their brand and became cultural lingo. Nike had “Just Do It.” Apple had “Think Different.” DeBeers had ” A Diamond is Forever.” The California Milk Processor Board had “Got Milk?”

Trump repeats this slogan again and again to the point of cultural saturation where it is known around the world. Those who support him see it as a rallying cry, while those who oppose him mock it as a joke. But everyone uses it. Along with his primary slogan, he also uses various phrases repeatedly – see if you remember these:

  • We’re losing to everyone… we’re gonna start winning
  • The Iraq war / Iran deal / NAFTA / Tax code / inner cities / whatever else is a disaster
  • We’re letting these people in and we don’t even know who they are

These phrases are either extremely vague or completely false. Yet when repeated enough, it becomes truth for people and is the lens through which they view everything. The reason these catch phrases are so powerful is that they state an opinion, framed as a fact, and rely heavily on emotion. For example, losing and winning is very vague and subjective, has never been reinforced by statistics or examples of any kind, and evokes strong emotion. Nobody likes losing. Everybody likes winning.

Use repetition in your marketing to drive home an emotional feeling. Develop a primary slogan and a set of phrases that you repeat consistently throughout your website and marketing campaigns. Don’t focus so much on making things catchy. Rather, focus on simplicity, comprehension, and emotion. The rest of your content can explain it, but the phrases themselves serve the purpose of reinforcing an emotional belief.

Using Emotional & Story Marketing

As much as we hate to admit it, humans are very susceptible to suggestion. None of use make “independent” thoughts. We’re all influenced by a millions factors everyday. Marketing is simply understanding the science and psychology of our brains to do it strategically and intentionally.

Whether Trump understands the science or not (I’m leaning towards not), he knows the principle. That’s how he is able to run such a successful campaign based on nonexistent policy. It’s how he can hold such a strong base of supporters who reject reality, ignore his incompetency, and defend regardless of anything he does.

This isn’t limited to Trump – it exists in all politicians, leaders, and businesses. Donald Trump just makes such an easy case for those who clearly see it and those who are stubbornly blind to it. It’s real-life psychological marketing in action.

In this case study, the “product” and the methods are deceitful. So if you have any honesty and integrity, you might wonder why you would want to use such sleazy marketing tactics.

Here’s the thing – the marketing in itself isn’t sleazy. Like money or power, it’s a tool that can be used in good ways or bad ways. Good businesses use it to help people realize their problem and help them solve it. Bad businesses use it to deceive people into believing they need to buy something they really don’t.

Your brand may be the best solution for people, but they may not have reached that rational conclusion yet. That’s because a ton of other brands are reaching people at their emotional level and convincing them otherwise. Persuade them first with the simplicity of story and emotional, then help them to rationally understand all the features of your product.


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