As a New Yorker and a personal brand strategist, I have to admit when I first saw Donald Trump announce his candidacy for presidency, I thought… “Here we go again with another Donald Trump PR stunt”. However, my opinion changed when I watched the first CNN Republican Debate in August along with 22 million other viewers. Frankly, it was the best two hours of reality TV I’ve ever watched! I remember saying to my husband…“the GOP better take him seriously because Donald Trump is a master at leveraging his personal brand and the media.”
While I’m not a fan of Donald Trump, his double-digit primary wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada are impressive from a branding and marketing perspective. Trump seems to be steamrolling his way to winning the GOP nomination. While the GOP may still be in denial about Trump and top political strategists and pundits are scratching their heads why this “outsider” is leading in the polls, there is actually a very simple explanation for the Donald’s popularity and success. It’s personal branding! Here is how a personal branding master plays big to win:
First, a personal brand is a lightning bolt. Personal branding is essentially telling your story in your own voice. No matter what you are offering to your target audience, you must be at the center of your brand. A personal brand has tremendous power. You can either harness this power, or it will electrocute you. There is no mistaking…Donald Trump is the CENTER of his brand. He is a master at projecting power and protecting his personal brand by being clear and consistent on his brand message platform as to who he is, what he does, and what’s his story. Did you happen to hear that Trump is a billionaire and has done thousands of deals? We have all heard it, loud and clear!
Second, masters of personal branding keep their brand message platform simple and relatable, such as Donald Trump’s mantra, “Let’s Make America Great Again”. This simple message has gotten many people to “buy-in”. Donald Trump is tapping into fears, frustrations, and economic challenges people have with the current status quo in the United States. A branding master knows how to identify pain points for their audience and quickly build a deep emotional connection through shared common interests, goals, struggles, or passions. People may say they don’t trust Trump, but believe he is correct that America has lost its way. He has struck a nerve. When you connect with people on a deep emotional level, they feel like you understand their challenges and problems. They will walk through fires and do your marketing for you. Just look at the size of Donald Trump’s rallies compared to all the other candidates on both sides.
Third, masters know how to keep their personal brand front and center in the media. They are constantly putting content and comments out to attract followers and the media. Think about it, Trump’s approach to media is more like an entertainer (i.e. Kanye West) than a presidential candidate. Since the presidential election in 2008, the media world has changed dramatically. We now live in a celebrity obsessed, reality TV, Kardashian world where entertainment is news, and news, political or not, is entertainment. Being provocative, personal attacks on people’s reputation, family, appearance, and integrity (live or via social media) is not an option, but almost a requirement to gain attention, followers, and airtime. As we have seen, no one is safe from a Donald Trump public or social media attack, even the Pope. Unfortunately for the other candidates, Trump has pretty much sucked up all the media time and attention.
Fourth, personal brand masters are experts at “growth hacking” their personal brands and DON’T need to spend a lot of money on marketing. Look as the latest campaign casualty, Jeb Bush, who spent $130 million on his primary efforts. Even money couldn’t help him with his personal brand image and the ability to connect emotionally with voters. When you have to beg for applause, it’s all over. A master brand manipulator uses integrated marketing strategies to build their brands. They focus on the big multipliers which generate the most influence and word-of-mouth marketing buzz. These are speaking, PR/media, content, connections, and social media. As we all know, Donald knows how to communicate his thoughts and opinions across all marketing channels (i.e. Tweeter and speaking) while remaining on-message, true to his brand.
Finally, what makes Donald Trump unique is that he is both a disruptor and a master of personal branding. For competitors, this is a deadly combination if you don’t know how to play the game. There is nothing typical about this election cycle. In a crowded field, you have to find ways to stand out from the competition. To position yourself as an influencer, authority, or leader, a personal branding master is not afraid to stand out and offer unique perspectives, provoke, or take a stance against the status quo. Donald Trump’s approach to his campaign has been unorthodox. He has been controversial by challenging, provoking, and disrupting the usual politics by self-funding his campaign, then openly discussing campaign fundraising, and attacking his rivals for their fundraising influences, which immediately set him apart from his opponents. He challenged the media itself as being unfair in their influence. Both these issues struck a chord with the public. Donald Trump has hammered these points home repeatedly with powerful effect, as seen at the polls. His message continues to resonate and will result in the GOP nomination.
About Andria Younger
Andria Younger is a personal brand strategist and consultant in New York City and ranked in LinkedIn’s Top 25 for personal branding. Follow Andria on Twitter or check out Andria’s personal branding blog at andriayounger.com.