Guest post by Tom McGoldrick
Much has been made about the unexplained mystery of how Trump has managed to become the Republican front runner. In this discussion, one thing that rarely gets mentioned is that Trump is a master brand builder. For decades, Trump has been building his personal brand to represent power, success and confidence. Who has more power over your life than the person who can utter the phrase “You’re fired”—a phrase that the Trump brand owns. He has taken this brand and captured the hearts of a large number of angry and disenfranchised Americans. To them he may be a mad dog, but he is their mad dog.
Tapping into American Culture
If Americans have been trained to respond to anything, it’s a brand. Coke/Pepsi, iPhone/Android, Ford/Chevy—we all have an immediate reaction and preference for each of those brand choices. However, very few people can explain what, in technical detail, is actually different about the products. We tend to like and identify with a brand and then rationalize reasons for why we choose that brand. A brand affiliation is a strong preference that is typically hard to change, since it is based on an emotional connection and not a logic list of preferred features.
Trump has done a fantastic job at creating a brand, and like Coke or Pepsi his supporters love him without being able to clearly articulate in policies or detail what would make him a great president. This is why policy critiques and his own inconsistencies tend to just roll off. The other candidates can produce all the policy statements and expert endorsements then want, it will make no difference to the Trump brand. In fact, they only serve to strengthen his supporter’s perception that they finally have a dog on their side, in the fight for a share of the American pie.
When Pepsi challenges Coke in the marketplace they don’t lead with how their mixture of water, sugar and caffeine interacts with your body to satisfy your thirst. They try to make an emotional connection promoting youth and high energy. Coke taught your parents to sing, Pepsi is the drink for a new generation.
Trump is building a brand while his competitors are just running a campaign.
Tom has been studying brands and how their stakeholders interact with them form more than 20 years. His approach focuses on helping Cargill understand how it’s many stakeholders define success and then measuring if its stakeholders believe they can be more successful with Cargill than any alternative. Currently he is responsible for research related to the Cargill Corporate Brand.
Tom joined Cargill in August 2010. Prior to joining Cargill he had 20 years of experience working as a market research consultant helping some of the world’s largest brands understand the expectations and desires of their customers.