False Marketer of the Year

James T. Berger headshot

James T. Berger
Senior Marketing Writer

Published January 3, 2017

Time Magazine’s Person of the Year Donald Trump has also been designated The Wiglaf Journal’s False Marketer of the Year.

His victory in the Presidential election confounded the experts and pollsters, and he accomplished it by breaking almost every conventional wisdom paradigm. With not a New York Minute’s worth of experience in elected office, he trounced Hillary Clinton whom was considered by President Barack Obama, “the most qualified person ever to run for President.”

How he did it will likely be discussed for years in marketing classes, at every level, at every college and university the world over.

Well, how did he do it? John Quelch, the Harvard Professor, wrote for Fortune Magazine and Harvard’s Working Knowledge, providing Six Lessons from Donald Trump’s Winning Marketing Manual. They are:

  1. Give consumers a job. He writes “Make America Great Again” is an “Inclusive call to arms” that permits voters to voter to interpret the phrase for his or herself.  He writes that Clinton’s “Stronger Together” is also inclusive but requires process with a less clear outcome.  “Good marketers know that, if you don’t position your brand clearly, your competition will do it for you.
  2. Show the past as prologue. Quelch maintains that offering the adventure of voting for an uncertain future doesn’t work especially with a new brand, but Trump won by recalling a “better yesterday” and promising to recreate it. Quelch points out that the word, “again” is crucially important and points to Kellogg’s Corn Flakes campaign to bring back lost customers, “Try Us Again for the First Time.”
  3. Pursue forgotten consumers. Quelch writes” Trump turned the Democrats’ commendable embrace of diversity on its head to invoke the ‘forgotten man,’ winning over lunch-bucket Democrats overlooked by their party as well as bringing in new voters and energizing lapsed ones.”
  4. Sizzle beats steak. Quelch compares Clinton’s experience and policy knowledge as the steak but Trump’s persona and his “contract with the American voter” was the sizzle. His contract offered broad brush strokes rather than Clinton-type specifics.
  5. Build enthusiasm. His rallies, determination and stamina and the size of his crowds created enthusiasm, according to Quelch. “Good marketers know that brand enthusiasm rings the cash register.”
  6. Close the sale. Quelch writes: “He refined his message, suppressed the ad hominem insults, and peaked at the right time, confounding the pollsters and media pundits.” He consistently invited voters “to imagine the future” if they voted for Trump.  He always said “we are going to win” despite dismal poll numbers. As a successful dealmaker, Trump understood how people wanted to back a winner.    

In a U.S. News story entitled Marketer in Chief, Northwestern University Prof. Tim Calkins, a branding expert, added three more marketing elements of the Trump triumph:

  1. He was able to generate a great amount of attention.
  2. He effectively differentiated his brand from the competition.
  3. He provided a different and clear perceived benefit.

In the same article Democrat Martin O’Malley said, “It is a fascinating story about brand building.”  O’Malley added, “As he (Trump) spoke, I couldn’t help but briefly think of Trump in the context of the movie version of David Mamet’s play, ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ about Chicago real estate salesman.”

Finally, Gregg Schwartz, director of sales and marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing, writing in the August (before the election) issue of Entrepreneur Magazine, in an article entitled, “5 Marketing Lessons Learned Watching Donald Trump Run for President,” offers his perspective:

  1. Know you audience: “…your brand doesn’t have to appeal to ‘everyone.’ Know your target market and speak to their concerns in a relevant way.
  2. Know your brand: “Love him or hate him. Donald Trump knows who he is.”
  3. Be Audacious: “Trump’s core supporters respect him for speaking the truth, even if he’s not saying it in a polite, genteel way.”
  4. Trust yourself: “Trump seems to be resonating with conservative Republicans because he is so unrehearsed and unpolished – he’s not afraid to speak off the cuff.”
  5. No Apologies: “He seems to have absolutely no sense of regret or shame. He says what he says, he calls it like he sees it, and then moves on, ignoring the critics.”

Donald Trump, marketer of the year? Not by a long shot. For a good marketer also delivers on the brand promise. That looks unlikely—and possibly down right malignant.  So instead, we have designated him “False Marketer of the Year.”

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About The Author

James T. Berger headshot
James T. Berger, Senior Marketing Writer of The Wiglaf Journal, through his Northbrook-based firm, James T. Berger/Market Strategies, offers a broad range of marketing communications, research and strategic planning consulting services. In addition, he provides expert services to intellectual property attorneys in the area of trademark infringement litigation. An adjunct professor of marketing at Roosevelt University, he previously has taught at Northwestern University, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago and The Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan (BA), Northwestern University (MS) and the University of Chicago (MBA). Berger is an often-published free lance business writer who has developed more than 100 published articles in the last eight years. For more information, visit www.jamesberger.net or telephone him at (847) 328-9633.