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Don’t tell me how to think: Trump, Trudeau, and the realpolitik of marketing today

by Randall Craig on November 11, 2016

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Marketing, Viewpoint

Tagged as: , , ,

Was there really a surprise that Donald Trump won the American election?  Or that Justin Trudeau won the Canadian one?  Or that Brexit happened?

While Americans may eventually rue their choice of president, these three results have much in common:

  • Politicians and insiders who are perceived as privileged, and think that they know better.
  • An enormous group of pundits, intelligentsia, entertainers, media, and other so-called experts, many of whom are also disconnected from the person on the street, and who also thought they knew best.
  • The echo chamber of Social Media, which has effectively replaced mainstream journalism with individual “bubbles” where an individual is not exposed to dissenting views (or corroborating facts.)
  • Individuals who actually know best… Even if “everyone” from the first three groups thinks that they are dead wrong.

Putting aside the debate performances, the health issues, the size of the rallies, and the television commercials, it is these four fundamental factors that opened the door to outsiders.  People don’t want to be told how to think, and they want to hear ideas that personally resonate.

At the same time, people do have problems with politicians who are sexist, vulgar, lying buffoons (of course I am thinking of the former Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, another outsider), and there are many intelligent voters who never would vote for politicians who are this way.  But at this point in time, it seems the number who don’t want to be told how to think “trumps” the number who have bona fide concerns.

Interestingly, all of these outsiders are really just following a basic marketing 101 approach, albeit with their own unique angles:

  1. Define the needs of your target.  For Trump, this was jobs, immigration, security.  For Trudeau, this was jobs through spending and political transparency.
  2. Use branding to encapsulate and represent your service or product.  Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan, as well as his personal brand as a successful businessman helped.  Trudeau’s brand was in the legacy of his name and in his youth.
  3. Differentiate your offering.  For Trump, this was his outrageously politically incorrect statements, which served only to ingratiate himself with people on the street. For Trudeau, it was the message of hope, which was completely different than his competitor’s message of doom.
  4. Exploit your competitor’s weaknesses.  For Trump and Trudeau, this was the insider nature of their competitors, and their connection to scandal (Hillary’s emails and Mike Duffy/Senate.)

The most important lesson these elections hold for marketers is more fundamental: Markets are in the midst of one of the most significant transformations around: did the taxi industry (or taxi regulators) think about Uber a few short years ago?  Or the hotel industry about Airbnb?  Or the Republican party Donald Trump?  New players, new technologies, and new ways of thinking are rocking traditional players to the core.

This week’s action plan:  Do you really think that you “know best” for your prospects, clients, or members?  Do you really think that what you see, hear, and read provides balanced input for your decisions?  And do you really think that each year, business (and life) will continue on its incremental journey, step-by-step without disruption?  If so, your version of Donald Trump (or Justin Trudeau) is just around the corner.  This week, do something about it.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

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About 

Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at randallcraig.com and 108ideaspace.com.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Daniel Goorevitch November 12, 2016 at 2:29 pm

The first two points are bang on though they really are one point. The media and politicians are both insiders. The third one is weaker since the degree of “bubbling” is chosen. A Twitter user can decide how many people he finds interesting and they can be of any point of view. Your fourth point is one I would argue is wrong. I don’t think there are people who really “know better” except in limited ways regarding points of fact. One of the issues of these three elections is what the difference is between a fact and an opinion. That line has been badly smeared and, in many cases, purposely. Creative blurring is, unfortunately, as big a part of marketing as is making things clear.

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