Advertising’s Top Trump

Let’s be clear from the very start here. I am neither informed or astute enough to be able to comment in any detail on Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the US election and in all honesty, that’s not what I am aiming to do. What really interests me is the methods used by Trump in order to gain a victory against the odds and become the President Elect.

The results of the US election came as a shock to me. More of a shock than the Brexit result in the UK in many ways. I think we can confidently hand the large, gold plated trophy of idiocy back to America and in the darkness that prevails, pick up our shovels and bury our national shame while no one is looking.

The shock didn’t come about because of policy or politics. It was at a much more human level. I just couldn’t find it in myself to believe that such a large group of people could abide the behaviour of Donald Trump across such a wide range of subjects (behaviours that had their foundation in hatred, ignorance and manipulation) and still find it in themselves to clothe him in such immense power.

Granted, our previous Prime Minister allegedly received fellatio off a pig, but in fairness to him, the pig was dead. I am not saying that if the pig was alive it would have consented but, even if that was the case, it still pales in comparison to the acts and words of Donald Trump.

Trump admitted to sexually assaulting real, human women and almost 60 million Americans simply chose to ignore or accept this information and carry on voting. That’s not to mention proposing a ban on Muslims (a statement that very recently disappeared from his website), admitting to not paying taxes and having a face so orange that Willy Wonka recently tried to recruit him as a general labourer.

OK…Now that I have that out of the way, let me get back to what I really understand… Marketing and advertising. You may think that the link is tenuous but, let’s be clear.

The definition of marketing is:

The action or business of promoting and selling products or services

In this case Donald Trump is both the product and to a certain extent the service.

If he was a product, Trump would be an old, racist orange. An orange that sat at the bottom of all of the other oranges on offer for months developing a thick wrinkled skin. Its once ripe flesh turned to putrid bile retaining not even a glimpse of its previously sweet flavour. At some point, the orange found its way to the top of the pile (a position it inherited from its father) where it waited quietly to be purchased by an unsuspecting member of the public whose only criteria for an orange is its colour.

If he was a service, he would represent something along the lines of an old, racist customer service representative. Like the people you have to call when your broadband grinds to a halt returning you to a time when information was not so freely available and, if you didn’t know something, you had to be content in not knowing, or visit a library.

Little did you know, prior to your call that old, racist customer service rep had been told they are being made redundant because their job has been outsourced and frankly, much of what they do can be achieved through a new software platform that has been developed by a foreign company.

This begs the questions.

How do you sell a rotten orange or a redundant service to the average consumer?

The answer is the epitome of everything that gives advertising a bad name. It also encapsulates everything that I strive against in my own role in the industry.

I’m not saying his tactics don’t get results. Clearly they do. What I am saying is that often, you have to make a choice between short term gains and long term engagement and loyalty. In the case of Donald Trump’s campaign, I truly believe a decision was made to win at all costs with little to no thought for long term loyalty and engagement.

I also don’t doubt that some of these tactics were employed by Hillary Clinton, but if there is any evil within her, she seems to be significantly less engulfed by it.

So what tactics did Trump use to win the election?

Audience Segmentation

This is actually a great tactic in advertising. Knowing your audience and segmenting them into relevant groups is exactly what we should be trying to do however, the outcome of this should be to better communicate with each segment and be more personalised in how we talk to people. In essence it’s about better understanding their needs.

Trump not only segmented his audience, he segregated it. An act that has the potential to drag America into a history that suppressed whole races of people.

Targeted Communication

Again a great concept but, when your communication actively denigrates whole races and groups of people, it can’t be good. If a brand did this, the backlash would be phenomenal and many of the media outlets supporting Trump would be the first to complain. Why is it acceptable for such a “high ranking” figure to pour such a phenomenal amount of hostility and base racism from his tiny anus-shaped mouth?

False Promises

Advertisers are actively regulated against this kind of practice. Misleading advertising is just not allowed. We couldn’t for example advertise that we were going to build a wall and that it was being funded by someone else if the ‘someone else’ simply didn’t want the wall or have any intention of paying for it.

Even if we were allowed to do this, would we want to? I’m sure there are some agencies out there who feel that “billing is billing” and it is not the place of an advertiser to make a moral judgement on the products they attempt to sell. I would politely disagree.

Firstly I think it’s much easier to sell something you believe in, and generally speaking I want to enjoy and be proud of the work I do. There are some projects I would rather not work on due to the nature of the products or services.

Emotional Manipulation

Playing on people’s fears in order to sell a product that will ultimately have little to no benefit in the long run. The aim of any product or service should be to add value to the end user. If it doesn’t do that or fails to deliver on what it promises then ultimately, your brand will lose any loyalty or long term engagement it could have hoped for.

In the framework I use when creating a campaign, the final segment is ‘Engage’ i.e. once you have sold the thing you are trying to sell, you have to continue to engage and serve your users in order to retain brand loyalty, referrals and potentially even repeat purchase.

Negative Over Positive

Trying to raise the value of your own product or service by showing the faults or downfalls of the alternative. Instead of focussing on the negatives of the alternatives, why not focus on the positives of your own product. Tell people what it can do and stick to it. If there is fault to be found in other products in the same category, let the users find it themselves. All you need to do is demonstrate what your product does well.

Having your brand adopt a positive tone of voice, and a positive demeanour means that people will associate positive emotions with you.

Story Telling

Advertising is really about telling a story and trying to put your users at the centre of that story. I would like to think that telling a positive story filled with hope, inspiration and maybe even a fairy would outperform a negative, hate filled story about how anything that isn’t a white male should probably be banned or at least controlled to do their master’s bidding.

What Trump did manage to do was tell a story. It wasn’t always logical or rational and it didn’t feel like it had much of an arch, but it was a story none the less. A story that played on some of the strongest emotions at his disposal.

It was however, a story that promised something different, a change from the norm. If you believed all of his many lies it was a story that promised improvement and relief and a billionaire who hasn’t paid his taxes complaining that big businesses get it too easy.

The Result?

Everyone knows the result. In the early hours of the morning UK time, it was announced that Donald Trump is the President Elect.

There was a small part of me that thought it might have been an elaborate joke being played by Google’s search results but, the afternoon arrived and it was still true. In fact, as I write now, Trump is still the President Elect.There is a small possibility that there is a glitch in the matrix or that this is in fact an experiment being run by the machines that simply want to use us as an energy source, but until Laurence Fishburne arrives and offers me a pill to make this all go away, I have to assume that this is now the reality we live in.

As I said before, this post is really about short term gain vs. long term loyalty. I genuinely think that Trump may well have won the battle but now faces a four year war to prove that he is not a massive, orange moron.

What about the long term?

In my opinion, the tactics used by Trump were either the wrong tactics or the right tactics used in the wrong way. Obviously the tactics got him the result but will they offer him long term loyalty.

So many brands are now forgoing quick results in exchange for long term goals. It’s not enough to make a single sale any more. In order to survive companies are much more dependant on developing an ongoing relationship with their customers. This means delivering on promises and continuously offering the best experience possible.

Without this kind of mindset, software as a service and monthly subscription programmes couldn’t exist. Who would continue to pay for something when they are constantly let down or mislead.

Donald Trump has inevitably made some promises that he just won’t be able to keep. He has made some claims about himself that seem too much of a stretch to be true. If he reneges on his election promises then, the people who elected him into office will be disillusioned and the people who never wanted him there vindicated but ultimately, nobody really wins.

Maybe he will prove the world wrong in the next four years. Only time will tell.

If it goes as expected then there will be a series of unfortunate events culminating in him being impeached.

How does this apply to the advertising industry?

As an industry we need to push to be more transparent and also, push for our clients to be more transparent with us. All too often it feels like a war between client and agency when it should be a partnership.

There is a time and place for quick wins but, there has to be a point at which we push back and educate clients on the long term goals we should be setting based on their business objectives. We should be leading the conversation in terms of creating brand loyalty, salience and long term engagement. Focussing on how we can leverage an existing audience offering clients a better ROI at a much smaller cost per acquisition.

Brands should be using consistent, valuable content over a longer period to attract a new audience and understanding that although the cost may be higher in the beginning, the pay off and longevity of their customers will be much better in the end.

I suppose my point is that, as an industry we are probably not as bad as Trump, but we are certainly not averse to adopting similar tactics. A lack of transparency goes hand in hand with many people’s view of advertising. Bending the truth to sell products or make results appear better than they are is common place.

Let’s focus on the long term. That’s clients and agencies. Let’s create a partnership and work honestly together. If we all paddle in the same direction (away from America) then maybe we can get better results and create more impactful advertising all around.

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