Trump’s 6 Rules of Advertising

Well, who is not reeling right now? What a ride; we are all glad this campaign season is over, though half the nation wishes things had gone differently.

So let’s take a look at what Trump did RIGHT. How did he win? And I’m not talking policy. What were his advertising strategies (whether intentional or not) that won him the presidency? His rise to the top of the world makes a great case study that nonprofits, businesses, and political campaigns alike can and should use for maximum visibility, sales, donations, votes, and participation.

Rule #1: Start Early

This campaign didn’t start 18 months ago with primary candidate announcements. Trump got a leg up on all of them when he started appearing in the press in the late 1970’s with his grand construction announcements in press conferences. Which real estate developer has ever utilized controversy and the press to this degree? In his book, The Art of The Deal, he describes how he used the press to pressure potential partners, sellers, and buyers into taking certain actions.  Trump continued to get his name in front of us by marrying & divorcing supermodels, hosting beauty pageants and wrestling matches (already targeting a large segment of the audience that eventually voted for him), then heading into “reality” TV over a decade ago, framing himself as the ultimate boss.

The takeaway is: whoever’s in the game the longest, stays in the game the longest. It worked for others in the entertainment industry like Reagan, Schwartzenegger, etc. Whatever you’re known for, get known early. Get in front of people.

This means: don’t wait to start advertising. Don’t wait till your message is perfect or your graphics are just so. Just send out an email NOW. Post on instagram NOW. It’s almost like a retirement account. No amount of racing will catch you up later in the game.

Rule #2: Be Consistent

From the beginning Trump didn’t just do one thing and accept it as his 15 minutes of fame. He constantly found ways to make headlines, both in his campaign, and for at least 35 years prior. There was always something going on. Breaking a new ground on a building, creating a new controversial tax deal on contested land, making 5th Avenue great again.

When you take a break from advertising, people either think you’re not doing well, or they just don’t think of you at all. Your name needs to be in front of people even when what you have to offer is completely irrelevant for them. Because once they need what you’re offering, whether it’s a school or camp for their kids, a product, a service, or a place to send their donation money, you’re what’s at hand – you’ve made it easy for them. Not only are they already familiar with you; you’ve saved them from the extra effort of looking elsewhere.

Rule #3: Unify Branding

Ever wonder why every single company that Trump starts is called Trump? Elon Musk has PayPal, Tesla, & now SolarCity. Trump would have named these TrumpPay, Trump Luxury Electric Cars, and TrumpSolar.


Every time you offer something with a different name, you have to start over from scratch with branding, marketing, advertising – the whole client relationship. Again, remember, it’s all about name recognition. Hillary never tried to sell you anything before her run in 2012. Trump has been selling me stuff since before I was born. And it all has had his name on it.

So what does this mean for you? If you’re holding an event, include the name of your organization in the event!!! Don’t call it something completely different just because it’s catchy, or it’s something “larger” than you. Make it relevant to your organization and mission – otherwise it’s a waste of advertising money. If you’re creating a new offering, include your name in it. That way your name is already on it – and your audience already trusts you and your new product or program. This gives the sale a much shorter pipeline.

Rule #4: Lean Into Controversy.

We recently created a controversy with a film campaign for one of our clients. Not intentionally. We create our films to stand out, and to stand for something. We did not expect what happened.

Many articles from different papers picked up this story. The controversy was primarily stirred by one naysayer who blew it up into a bigger issue than it was, and called for our client to take down our film.

Our client refused. Because our film represents what they stand for, and they weren’t about to back down on their beliefs. It was unfortunate that detractors read into the film certain things that likely came more from their own associations than from the film itself.

At first we were nervous. What if this reflects badly on our client? But in the end it had the opposite effect. Why? Because it brought out our client’s target audience, who raced to defend our client in comments on these articles. It made them stronger in their conviction, and in their loyalty to our client and what they stand for.

Surely you’ve been involved in – or at least have noticed – the debate during the election campaign about Trump and his many controversial statements and actions, even his looks. (If people would have talked about Hillary’s looks in the same way they degraded Donald’s, it would have been misogynistic!) The press took him literally, but not seriously. His supporters took him seriously, but not literally.

In the media’s fierce opposition of Trump all along the way, they created an even stauncher support base for him, almost in defense of him. He appealed to a group of voters who felt the media is in general biased against them. And it turns out, that was a huge mass of constituents.

Trump’s response – engaging in the controversy – led his supporters to back him up in the same way. By not backing down from a confrontation he was telling them that he will not back down from fights – with foreign leaders, with terrorists, or with anyone.

By not backing down from what they believe in, our client made a statement that resonates with their target audience. Now their choice to patronize our client is more than just a choice – it’s a statement. It’s a rebellion. It’s a movement.

Rule #5: Frame Failures As Successes

How often have you heard mention of Trump’s failed ventures and bankruptcies? The fact is, history is filled with winners who failed big before winning bigly. Steve Jobs being fired from the company he created, Elon Musk on the verge of pennilessness in the early stages of Tesla, Nixon getting beaten by Kennedy, Barack Obama losing his first run for Senate. Even Katy Perry was released from her first record deal because the company stopped believing in her ability to make a hit. And of course, Edison’s myriad of failed experiments before hitting the jackpot with a few major inventions that permanently changed life as we knew it.

The fact is, failure is only epic if it does not precede greatness. Go ahead and fail. But remember to frame it as a success. You likely don’t need to claim successes where there were none (Trump’s steaks, water, university, and casinos come to mind), but Trump still proclaimed himself a winner to the masses, thus shaping their view of him, and that ultimately led him to nail the position as leader of the free world.

Rule #6: Remember Your Friends

For better or for worse, Trump is currently putting together his cabinet, and stocking it largely with people who loyally stuck by him through the thick of it all, rather than those with more experience who may be more fit for the job. Many will criticize this move as strikingly similar to “Pay to Play,” or just the SPOILS system, what we call in Hebrew “protektzia.” However, he has run his platform on getting rid of “lifers” from the government, and what he might be banking on is that loyalty, motivation, and grit under fire will prove more successful in the fulfillment of any given role or task than knowledge and experience.  Regardless, he is rewarding those who have stuck by him and endorsed him.

Rewards should be applied in any customer service experience. Rewards for referrals, rewards for brand loyalty over the years, rewards for those who give large donations (or even small donations). These rewards don’t need to be as big as office placements. They can be as simple as doing a donor a favor beyond your job description (making them a meal when they have a baby, sending them a holiday gift), offering higher incentives such as awards to campers or students who have been with an institution for a decade or any other increment, and referral fees or discounts to those who pass your name along to a new client or participant.

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