Politics & Personal Branding – What You Can Learn From Trump

Why Donald Trump is a great example of Politics & Personal Branding

This is an interesting time in American history and American politics, and I feel like I had to open this blog post that way so you knew I wasn’t talking about Pokemon Go. (By the way, that is a genius marketing strategy and if anyone tells you anything different, they’re wrong.) The Republican National Convention starts next week, and it’s going to be a doozy almost anyway you slice it. It could be the most contentious political convention we’ve seen since 1968, and that’s not a good thing. It’s probably going to be the first convention in at least two decades where it’s more important what’s happening outside the arena — protests, etc. — then inside it.

We all know the term “Donald Trump” makes everyone laugh, but I think there are lessons to be learned on the business and marketing side here in the vein of politics & personal branding. I spend a ton of my professional life working on personal branding. I work with people almost hourly on personal branding, from individuals whose revenue stream is themselves to companies to entrepreneurs and back again. Personal branding is everything in the modern age and if you want to know how to have a successful social brand, start with this post It can sound like a buzzword — “personal branding” seems to imply you’re making yourself a brand, which seems less authentic — but it’s crucial. Nothing is handed to you professionally. You can have a great job and a great manager and, three days later, you can be fired because your company takes a revenue hit. Is that common? No. But does it happen all the time to people? Yes. And when you’re out there looking for new opportunities or trying to build up your own thing, your personal brand is all you have. It’s reflected in what you write, what’s on LinkedIn, what’s on YouTube, and what people will find when they Google you.

That’s all a long way of getting back to Trump. His personal brand offends a lot of people, but it’s actually very strong. While he’s a loose cannon, you know (give or take) what you’re going to get with him: brash pronouncements, fourth-grade vocabulary, and criticisms of opponents/rivals. (Crooked Hillary and Choker Marco Rubio, etc.)

During the primaries when Trump’s rise was happening, NBC’s Meet the Press went to a Trump rally in Alabama and filmed a video with his supporters:


It’s a quick video — less than 2 minutes and 20 seconds — and if you watch it, all his supporters tend to use the same words to describe him:

  • Outsider
  • Change
  • Change the system
  • Real
  • Talks real
  • Represents us
  • Discontent with government

Now that’s good politics & personal branding!

Now look at this chart:

personal branding donald trump

Basically, it says this: in the 2000 Presidential election cycle, 7 percent of people polled had an unfavorable view of both parties. In 2016, it’s up to 24 percent. So in four Presidential cycles, we’ve basically quadrupled the amount of people who don’t like either of their options.

This is where Trump excelled in terms of personal branding and marketing. At base, marketing is just about positioning whatever your product or service is. We over-complicate it sometimes and talk about power branding and automation and all that — and I’ve worked with clients on all those things, so don’t get me wrong — but it’s really just explaining how your product is going to be better than some other product.

The climate Trump entered was one where 1 in 4 people in America didn’t like either party. So he marketed himself as an outsider — which is insane if you think about it, because we live in a capitalism, and it’s very hard for a billionaire to be an outsider in that system — and that marketing got him 13 million primary voters and the presumptive nomination. (Unless something crazy happens in Cleveland.)

My point is this: many people don’t like Trump. But if you think concepts like ‘personal branding’ and ‘marketing’ are fluffy and don’t have impact or don’t need to be considered, well … turn on the TV next week in Cleveland and you’ll see it play out live in technicolor.