Most people would agree that one of the most extraordinary political events in the last couple of years has been the rise of Donald Trump.
Since announcing that he would stand for the presidency in June 2015, it’s been hard to ignore the media extravaganza that has followed him everywhere throughout his campaign.
Initially, Trump’s vie for the presidency was viewed by many as an amusing sideshow.
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank was one of many to dismiss Trump’s announcement by publishing an article entitled ‘Trump will lose, or I will eat this column’.
The Huffington Post published the following satirical extract in July, 2015:
‘After watching and listening to Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy for president, we have decided we won’t report on Trump’s campaign as part of The Huffington Post’s political coverage. Instead, we will cover his campaign as part of our Entertainment section. Our reason is simple: Trump’s campaign is a sideshow. We won’t take the bait. If you are interested in what The Donald has to say, you’ll find it next to our stories on the Kardashians and The Bachelorette.’
Now, President-elect Donald Trump has not only forced Dana Milbank to eat his own column, he has well and truly stolen the show.
Despite causing controversy and offending people on almost a daily basis, Trump has brushed his critics aside and forged an unthinkable amount of support. Yet a lot of people can’t figure out why.
Opinions and emotions aside, whenever a person, product, or an idea diffuses this rapidly into society, we should all sit up and take notice; marketers especially.
Marketing and politics share some resounding parallels. Marketers attempt to sell you a product or a service. Politics attempt to sell you an idea. Persuasion is the bilateral element that underpins the success of both practices.
Trump, an inexperienced politician, albeit seasoned marketer, has demonstrated his advanced understanding of how to apply persuasive techniques in his propaganda.
When you decode the semantics of Trump’s statements within the political arena, he makes references to well-cited marketing theories in modern psychology, and tactics of persuasive rhetoric that date as far back as the 4th century.
It is the mastery of these practices that have partially driven Trump’s success.
Being underestimated can actually work out in your favour. In this case, I think it’s fair to say that it has worked well for Donald Trump.
Since being dismissed by the majority, Trump decided to forge himself an unpredictable persona. One that leaves people wondering what he’s going to say or do next. This has made him a volatile, yet interesting character to observe.
Whether you like him or dislike him, he’s got your attention.
Equally, Trump recognises the value in going against the grain. Instead of focusing on conventional areas of debate, Trump opts to take a different route by choosing to talk about topics that his counterparts pay little attention to or ignore altogether.
Tap into emotions
Fear-based psychology or ‘scare tactics’, have been a cornerstone of political marketing strategies for centuries.
Aristotle was one of the first philosophers to observe that emotional arousal is a critical element in the art of persuasion. He claimed that emotions may give rise to beliefs where none previously existed, change existing beliefs and may enhance or decrease the prominence in which a belief is held.
At the core of Donald Trump’s marketing strategy is his appeal to emotion. By focusing on sensitive areas of debate and envoking nostalgia from the past, Trump has successfully tapped into the emotions of voters en masse.
The power of repetition
Think of the slogans and taglines that you can remember from the global brands that serve us every day. Just do it. I’m lovin’ it. Every little helps. Because you’re worth it.
The primary reason that we’re able to recite these taglines is because of the relentless repetition from their advertising.Repeat your message enough and it will eventually embed itself within the minds of your audience.
Trump utilises this approach with his tagline ‘Make America Great Again’ (a phrase first coined by Ronald Reagan) which he reiterates at the end of every public speech he makes, as a matter of policy.
Brand evangelists or in this case, political loyalists are known to proactively repeat this type of messaging which adds huge momentum to a campaign.
How to Trendjack
Unless you’ve been living in a cave and had no contact with the outside world, the chances are you’ve probably heard about the arrival of the Pokémon Go app. It’s undoubtedly been one of the most talked about trends of 2016.
Donald Trump recognised the rapid diffusion of Pokémon Go as a golden opportunity to leverage context to his message about Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton.
His tenacious effort to discourage people from voting for Hilary may have been an unorthodox method of persuasion, but it certainly bolstered his presence in the social arena.
It also highlighted his (perhaps futile) attempt to reach out to a large portion of the younger generation.
Whatever happens in November, when we look back at the 2016 presidential elections, whatever the outcome, we’re likely to remember it as the Donald Trump show.