He leaned on his established brand identity
Trump already had an established, world-famous brand. He used his celebrity name to attract attention and amplify his campaign message over Hillary Clinton’s. “Trump capitalized on the power of the Trump brand, which people associate with and aspire to luxury, wealth and celebrity,” said Tim Calkins, professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “Clinton is also a powerful brand but less appealing for many people and not associated with entertainment.”
He used an extreme message to stand out from other candidates
Choosing a candidate to vote for is like a high-involvement buying decision — one that consumers spend a lot of time thinking about because it carries a high risk if it fails. Brand names can be very important, but the value a product creates and offers to consumers — in this case, voters — is the center of effective marketing.
Trump created and communicated an offering “value” of delivering change in exchange for the risk and time “price” voters paid to consider voting for him. Trump’s communication plan used the campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” to resonate with groups or target markets of people he wanted to reach — voters sharing similar lifestyles, world perceptions, moods and concerns about employment opportunities. He also targeted groups of voters who felt their basic need for public safety has been compromised.
“Trump had a very direct and consistent message and paired it with change,” Calkins said.
He repositioned his competitors to make them seem less attractive
Trump labeled competitors with unflattering names like “Crooked Hillary” and “Lyin’ Ted” to solicit reactions from the candidates and psychologically repositioned their standing among voters. He also applied a problem/solution marketing formula. He framed the “problem” as the nation being in economic and societal trouble, rallied people to galvanize their dissatisfaction with government and positioned himself as the change agent.
“Trump created a sense of what the problem was, framed it and then juxtaposed himself as the solution,” according to Russ Klein, chief executive of the American Marketing Association.
Michael Beer, professor emeritus at the Harvard Business School, has presented a change-management formula highlighting three components of focus for change leaders to succeed — create dissatisfaction with the status quo, develop a strategy to drive behavior and create a process to engage people and raise their dissatisfaction.
“The change formula does apply in helping us understand what motivated people to vote for Trump — huge dissatisfaction with the status quo, which Trump energized, usually by practicing identity politics,” Beer said. “What drove people to him was not just dissatisfaction and frustration with their economic situation but also dissatisfaction with feeling powerless.”
He used public appearances to focus attention on himself
Trump and Clinton used ads and public relations to build brand awareness and demand. Both applied marketing influencers (Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich for Trump; President Obama and entertainment celebrities for Clinton) to sway voter opinion.
But Trump also used his numerous rallies to generate and perpetuate media attention. Strategic marketing categorizes consumers into segments or groups of buyers based on behavioral, demographic, geographic and psychographic characteristics. Trump marketed to voters based on their wants, social class, income, ethnicity, location, opinions, values and lifestyles and held events attended by those market segments.
“Trump was always out there, and rallies were a platform to generate more buzz,” Calkins said.
Clinton did not participate in as many rallies.
He leveraged social media to create excitement and buzz
Trump used social media, and Twitter in particular, to build relationships with voters and create a word-of-mouth buzz for his brand. Clinton’s use of social media did not generate as much communication buzz. This strategy helped Trump build attitudinal loyalty, the degree to which a customer prefers or likes a brand, rather than behavioral loyalty, when a customer buys a product out of habit.
“Trump had a communication plan that leveraged social media for PR attention,” Calkins said.