CCG Insights

How Trump's Brand Won the White House

Posted by Marc Carroll on Feb 3, 2017 2:23:17 PM


Exactly two weeks ago, the United States inaugurated its 45th president. Some are still wondering how a real estate mogul from New York became the President of the United States. The answer…great marketing. The election of Donald Trump came as a huge surprise to many but was viewed as a vindication of sorts to others. No matter how you feel about Donald Trump, we all need to admit one thing, his marketing strategy was brilliant.

This piece isn’t a political statement and isn’t a reflection on my personal views about the election, rather it’s a look into the smart marketing and strong brand that helped Donald Trump become elected President of the United States.

To understand Trump’s marketing strategy, first you need to look at his brand. Trump has a reputation for being loud, self-promoting, egotistical, opinionated and controversial. However, he is also seen as a successful businessman who is a great dealmaker.

The Trump brand starts with Donald Trump himself, but it also branches out to his products and properties. The Trump brand is known for luxury. He’s made his fortune by placing the brand name “Trump” on everything from Trump hotels and resorts, to Trump golf courses, Trump vodka, Trump wine, Trump chocolate, and even Trump steaks. He built his brand to conjure the emotional response that those products must be high quality and among the finer things in life.

By leveraging his brand image, public perception, and fame, Donald Trump was able to deliver a message that allowed him to win the presidential election.

The Strategy

The Trump team was able to build their campaign by doing 5 key things extremely well:

- Stay true to the brand

- Know your target audience

- Develop a simple message

- Differentiate vs. the competition

- Cut through the clutter

Using this strategy allowed candidate Trump to take early leads in the polls, hold off more politically experienced rivals, and win an election that few believed he could win.

So what exactly is a “brand” anyway?

Your brand is the way your customer perceives you and, in a way, it’s a promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services. It conveys a standard of quality, credibility and experience. A brand also defines and differentiates your business or your offering from your competitors.

Donald Trump had a unique view of what a brand is in his 1987 book “The Art of the Deal”. In the book, Trump wrote, “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration and a very effective form of promotion.”

Stay true to the brand

Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump never strayed from the brand that the public has gotten to know throughout his entire career. Whether you’ve seen him on various interviews, talk shows, or on the Apprentice, Trump has always maintained his brand image of being loud, in your face, and ready for controversy. When Trump made disparaging statements about women, ethnic groups, and minorities, it may have been unprecedented that a presidential candidate would say those things publicly but it didn’t hurt his candidacy.

“All of the issues that Trump had were part of his brand” according to Tobe Berkovitz, political consultant and Professor of Advertising at Boston University. “His followers would say, well that’s Trump”.

Know your target audience

The electorate was extremely divided during this election cycle. People were looking for something different. They were looking for a “change” candidate who didn’t fit the career politician mold, much like President Obama’s campaign was in 2008. Donald Trump saw this and crafted his message to mirror voter sentiment.

There was a tremendous amount of voter anger. Voters wanted to make a statement and they were willing to use the greatest power they had, the ballot box. “Voters in this election were looking for someone they could believe in rather than believe about” says Berkovitz.

Develop a simple message

During the campaign, only two candidates effectively tapped into this voter anger, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. They positioned themselves as outsiders and developed a message that was clear and simple. The theme of their message was Washington was broken and needed to be fixed.

Both Trump and Sanders created a populist message that focused on the working people of America. Sanders spoke about income inequality while Trump focused on illegal immigration and terrorism. The Trump campaign took this message and targeted it towards workers who felt the country was going in the wrong direction by evoking Ronald Regan’s slogan in the 1980 election “Make America Great Again”.

Regan used the slogan to encourage a feeling of patriotism during a poor economic period in the country. Trump used it to appeal to his supporters by making them feel that he was the only candidate that would look out for their best interests. The strategy behind his message focused inwards on putting the interests of America first.

Differentiate vs. the competition

There was no question that Donald Trump was different than the other presidential candidates. He stood out by being the “non-establishment” candidate. Trump highlighted his differences by defining the other candidates with unflattering nicknames in a series of tweets including tweets about Marco Rubio (“Little Marco”),


Ted Cruz (“Lyin’ Ted”),


and Hillary Clinton (“Crooked Hillary”).


These remarks about his competitors helped to shape public opinions about them and made Trump's supporters believe that he was the better choice.

Cut through the clutter

Traditionally, politicians rely on TV and radio ads but social media, public rallies, and earned media were the keys to getting Donald Trump’s message out to the public. His greatest asset to delivering his message was his Twitter account. Twitter gave him a way to deliver his message in real time to the voters without much need for using traditional media.

At the time Donald Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015, he had 3 million followers on Twitter. On Election Day 2016, he had nearly 13 million followers. If you include the number of retweets and mentions he generated during this time, the number of people he reached were tens of millions more people than his followers. Trump’s unorthodox content for a presidential candidate made his tweets instantly newsworthy. Whether he was targeting his competitors, an issue, or whatever happened to be on his mind at the moment, Twitter was a powerful tool for the Trump campaign. Because of the additional exposure of Trump’s tweets, he attracted larger crowds during his campaign rallies which gave him the platform to deliver his message to the masses.

The Trump campaign also benefited from seemingly non-stop media coverage. Estimates show that throughout the campaign, Trump received between $3-5 billion dollars’ worth of free media coverage. To put this sum into perspective, the world’s largest advertiser, Proctor and Gamble which features household products such as Bounty, Charmin and Tide to name a few, spent a total of $4.6 billion dollars in U.S. advertising in 2015. The Trump campaign received about the same exposure for free.


The Trump campaign used the power of his brand and a smart marketing strategy to help him win the election. The followed these five steps to gain an advantage:

- Stay true to the brand

- Know your target audience

- Develop a simple message

- Differentiate vs. the competition

- Cut through the clutter

These five steps are the keys to help any business owner build a brand and stand out however, the strategy surrounding these steps need to match your business culture. Doing this in the same way that the Trump campaign used it can lead to a negative opinion about your business.

The way that Donald Trump used this strategy worked for his campaign because it matched his brand. “He had an established brand before the election. People need to know who and what your brand is and stay with it” said Berkovitz.

Learn how you can use this strategy to grow your business in our blog "Can Using Trump's Campaign Strategy Get Your Business Noticed?"




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