2016 Presidential Campaign Redux: May the Best Brand Win
Many are still wondering how Donald Trump pulled off his shocking win. KSM reviews brand strategy by drawing an unusual comparison.
With the 2016 presidential race already months behind us and the peaceful transition of power having taken place, the vitriol of the election unfortunately remains unabated. There have been thousands of articles, hypothesis and opinions as to how Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. But have we truly learned anything? While the media continues an often decontextualized and narrowly-focused debate, the facts show that Trump had much more in common with former President Barack Obama than did Hillary Clinton. That is, “Donald J. Trump” the brand.
In marketing, the power and equity of a brand means everything. With presidential races, it regularly comes down to who can build and establish the most dynamic persona. Thus, rather than touting the now debunked belief that money buys elections (just ask Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton how that worked out for them), political strategists should be focusing on the lessons learned from successful messaging and branding campaigns. People ultimately respond to a candidate the way they do a retail brand—if it does not represent their style and values, they do not buy.
Take Obama for instance. The formerly unknown senator from Illinois ran the most successful presidential campaigns in history by becoming “Barack Obama” the brand. Even as he left office, this brand still resonated. The former president’s personal approval ratings are much stronger than his policy numbers. Yet according to the Washington Post, 17 percent of individuals who approve of Obama also ended up voting for Trump. This seems to indicate that the more powerful a brand is, the less a need exists for individuals to believe in every aspect of that brand. If a person can strongly engage and connect with a single brand characteristic, it can be a...