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Donald Trump: Raving Lunatic or Self-Promotional Genius?

Thunderfoot Team

Whether you love him or love to hate him, everyone has something to say about Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Trump may or may not be stark-raving mad, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from “The Donald” about brand-building.

Love him or hate him, everyone has something to say about Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Trump may be recognized for all the wrong reasons, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from “The Donald” about brand-building.

It feels like we can’t get through a single day without another media frenzy over some outrageous, off-the-cuff comment from Donald Trump, the real estate mogul turned TV star turned presidential candidate.

We might have different opinions about him, but he himself will be the first to tell you that he’s been incredibly successful at being famous. From his outlandish use of superlatives, to his love of insult comedy, to the rug on his head that’s beginning to look more like an old bath mat, there are few celebrities or politicians more recognizable than Trump.

Yes, us brand marketers, like all Americans, could learn a thing or two from Mr. Trump. Just don’t get too carried away when channeling the presidential hopeful — you don’t want to put up any Great Walls between you and your valued customers.

Authenticity Attracts

Everyone loves a bad boy. Okay, maybe Trump isn’t your leather-jacket wearing, motorcycle-riding, “wrong side of the tracks living” dreamboat, but he certainly isn’t afraid of being controversial. TIME claims that part of Trump’s appeal is his “outlaw” persona — he doesn’t hesitate to personally attack his opponents, and has no qualms about making provocative and oftentimes outlandish comments.

Although one might think that this open hostility would hurt Trump’s campaign, it’s actually had the opposite effect. “The Apprentice” star’s refusal to water down inflammatory comments has garnered him a reputation among supporters as authentic — someone who “tells it like is” in a crowd of lying politicians, or at least someone who “tells it like they think it should be.”

Now, I’m not advising you to level verbal attacks that could alienate groups of potential customers — in fact, as a marketing professional, I’d go so far as to call it a bad idea. You can, however, take a page from Trump’s playbook: ask yourself what it is that makes your brand unique, and use that special something to develop a marketing strategy showcasing your true spirit. What qualities do you have that the competition lacks?

Trump also illustrates how the importance of brand authenticity — honesty is surprisingly refreshing in a marketplace fueled by jargon and false-promises.

Speak to Your Supporters

Trump’s greatest strength is actually his knowledge of his audience. By consistently employing buzzwords and by focusing on the topics that most strongly resonate with his voter base (and not the general public), Trump has won over a plentitude of die-hard supporters.

Trump’s staunch stance against illegal immigration, for instance, has become a of trademark of his campaign, and he strengthened his core appeal on the issue by creating an effective, though impractical symbol of it: the Great Wall of Trump.

Trump is quite clear on what what his brand represents — steadfast conservatism and a return to “traditional” American values. He’s done his research on trending keywords and topics that play to the hearts of his followers. His signature slogan was clearly curated with care to make his brand stick: “Make America Great Again.”

Make Your Vision Go Viral

I challenge you to go more than a day without mentioning or referencing Trump. From his early real estate success, to his self-help books, to his run on a wildly popular reality TV show, Trump’s impact has been incredibly wide-reaching. The fact that he’s so active on his social media accounts doesn’t hurt either -— Marketing Land largely attributes Trump’s polling success to his hefty social media following (almost four million followers on Twitter).

The immediacy of the internet translates into instant, easy-to-share self-promotion (or damage control, as the case may be). As Trump has showed us, you don’t need to know much at all about politics to find a variety of venues through which to market your brand — you just have to get creative. Once you’ve covered all the usual suspects, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, try to seek out places where untapped markets may be hiding.

You’d be surprised how many people can be converted by a simple trucker hat-based campaign.

While I hope this piece makes it clear how much respect I have for the Donald, I’ll admit he isn’t perfect. He has the tact of a bull in a China shop, and while some might appreciate a candidate willing to get bullish with China, his aggressiveness could potentially end up turning a few Americans off. But he has an unusual penchant for self-promotion, and that alone makes him a worthy source of timeless wisdom for marketers like myself.