Branding in the Era of President Trump

Whatever you may think of our president, Donald Trump is clearly in charge of his brand and navigates by his own set of rules. He has rewritten how a president acts and transformed the rulebook for modern politics, at least for now. Few can honestly doubt the Trump brand’s gravitational force and ability to dominate news cycles (positively or negatively) or its ripple effects on many industries, including defense, healthcare, technology, finance, energy, housing, sports and retail.

What does this mean for brands in the era of President Trump? Well, it causes us to question what we traditionally hold as true. Brands are valued based on their authenticity and how they deliver on what they promise. Today, “alternative  facts,” bluster and fake news lead the charge. The truth is not what has been proven but what is said over and over. Perception is becoming reality, which begs the question: in our post-fact world, how can brands resonate and remain authentic?

In business, we need to appeal to as many profitable customers as possible and continue to widen our pool of users to grow.  President Trump has taught us that you can win by focusing on “your base,” a narrow pool of supporters, without necessarily expanding your pool. We should ask ourselves who we target and why.

Brands, even ones based on nostalgia, need to connect with and be relevant to today’s consumers. We see, for example, the president leverage social media more effectively (or certainly more frequently) than any other politician, both as a means to express his far-ranging opinions as well as a vehicle to talk directly to his constituents. This is an example of using today’s media offerings to be relevant. However, we also see the president express social views that tend to be considered more antiquated versus contemporary. These are related to racial relations, women’s issues, and sexual harassment, as well as perspectives related to the transgender community. For brands that struggle to appeal to millennials as well as the collective consciousness of the nation, what does this mean?

If brands built themselves based on lessons from President Trump, we’d see brands in the Trump era directed toward small, often-ignored parts of the population. We’d see brands that challenge all competitors directly and at every opportunity.  These would be brands made of bluster, not afraid to be boastful or exaggerate, and brands that speak directly and frequently to their stakeholders via social media.

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