What is the purpose of the Trump brand?


Trump is a skilled marketeer who, with all too known means from the old school marketing book, has built a unique personal brand so well that it made it all the way to the White House. Since 2000, when Trump first ran for president, he has been in the process of establishing and building his personal brand just as much as building a business. But is there an actual purpose behind the red tie, the yellow hair and the much repeated ‘Make America Great Again’?

In the newest episode of the DR (Danish National broadcaster) TV-show “Trump’s Tweets”, Nikolaj Stagis explains the Trump brand. Watch the full episode.

“On one hand, it is safe to say that Trump has succeeded – in being elected for president and becoming a well-known personal brand. On the other hand it’s hard to say what the Trump brand actually has to offer. With no long-term plan or vision, neither for his own brand or for the World around him.”
Nikolaj Stagis

Is Trump a brand?

When we talk about brands, we often distinguish between product brands, corporate brands and personal brands. You might expect the businessman Trump to build a corporate brand for his many business activities, and in a way he did. But his focus has been on developing his own personal brand, rather than that of his business. And when it comes to building a name – no doubt, Trump has built a well-known brand for himself.

Nevertheless, during Trump’s time as president, he has seen his business value decline. A fact that he explains by his minimized business activity overseas. But in order to accommodate a financial statement moving in the wrong direction, Trump recently added ‘brand value’, which he estimated to a worth of $4 billion. In no time at all Trump’s assets increased from $3-4 billion to $8 billion.

Old tricks from the marketing book

Trump is a an old school marketeer and a businessman who likes to persuade and cut a deal – nomatter what it takes. He bothers less with creating value for all parties (including the customer/voter) or considering facts when he promotes himself. But what are the main tricks he is using?

  1. Repetition of catch phrases and slogans
    Trump uses the well-known but old-fashioned marketing approach of repeating the message to get through the maze/doubt/critique. Repetition is clearly one of Trump’s most used techniques, both linguistically, in which he frequently repeats words and also in the brand over time. Think about “Build that wall”!
  2. Build on emotions
    Trump’s primary promises and arguments are based on emotions – and igniting the emotions of his audience. The advantage of having your target audience choose the brand based on emotion is that it feels authentic and true – even if you get logical counter-arguments and you can’t explain why you believe something is true.
  3. Create attention – what ever it takes
    Trump’s brand is based on “All publicity is good publicity”. Using enemy images and conflicts to keep the interest of the media, he has succeeded in getting attention. Sure, it is a short term solution – but works in the given situation and by adding new dramatic agendas every day the Trump brand gets attention.

The meaning behind the Trump brand?

Brands today attract and retain customers and fans by being clear about their purpose – their reason for being. But the Trump brand is constantly pursuing short-term goals and has no overall vision or purpose. ‘Make Amercia Great Again’ is the only slogan that is actually addressing the values of Mr. Trump. However, to this day it is unclear what president Trump actually means by “great” and what past greatness he refers to, when he leads the choir of American fans with red caps yelling the slogan. When he is asked to choose a time when he felt America was great, he chooses the Ronald Reagan period where he himself ran an ad saying “Let’s not let our country be laughed at any more”. Even referring to a time when America was great seems to be difficult.

Leading with purpose and having passion is not the same thing. While president Trump has lots of energy and seems to be passionate and is also succeeding at activating the emotions of his voter base, he doesn’t have any vision for America or a purpose for himself beyond recognition. Trump uses emotional persuasion, rather than long-term value creation for the American society and the World.