The Marketing Genius of Brand the Donald

Gage Skidmore

[Originally posted on the Huffington Post.]

For any serious student of marketing and media seeking a perfect pop culture storm, I give you the man currently dominating the race to be the U.S. Republican Party’s 2016 presidential candidate. Before Donald Trump wisecracked and bad-mouthed his way to global media prominence as the political maverick of the moment, he had already had a decade of celebrity as the host and hard-assed boss of the reality show “The Apprentice.” And before that, he had made megabucks as a real estate developer and dealmaker.

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Personal Branding Digest, June 19, 2015

We Are All Donald Trump Now
(Bloomberg, 16.06.15)

A presidential campaign is America’s ultimate personal branding opportunity—which is why candidate Trump makes sense.

6 Secrets Nobody Tells You About Personal Branding
(Entrepreneur, 02.06.15)

Personal branding is one of the most effective strategies available for modern businesses. Because consumers generally distrust corporate brands, personal brands offer a unique way to build trust, facilitate customer loyalty and ultimately increase revenue. In addition to being a novel marketing strategy, it can also help your business with recruiting and put you in a better position for a career change down the road.

How to Avoid the Five Worst Personal Branding Mistakes
(Forbes, 23.05.15)

It’s hard to talk or write about yourself. We don’t know where to start. On top of that, articles and books and webinars for years have been teaching people the most heinous personal branding ideas imaginable. We’ve been taught to bury our personalities under piles of bureaucratic sludge. No wonder people are confused about how to describe themselves in writing!

Find the Right Meme that Fits Your Personal Brand
(Business2Community, 04.05.15)

Creating graphic memes with quotes is a good way to encourage conversation and shares on social media. Having a standout visual marketing strategy is an important part of building your personal brand’s visibility; and, it’s important that you have a message match.

“Study the unusually successful people you know, and you will find them imbued with enthusiasm for their work which is contagious. Not only are they themselves excited about what they are doing, but they also get you excited.” —Paul W. Ivey

Did Obama or Your Boss Overstay Summer Vacation?

[Originally posted on]

Every August, millions of Americans take vacations. And every year, the most powerful of them, their president, takes a lot of heat just for taking his—and also for where he goes. Powerful business executives, too, take hits for their choice and length of retreat.
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We Tackle Branding Every Week on

On’s CMO Network, @havaspr CEO Marian Salzman focuses on one of the most important issues today in business: personal branding. She has talked about it through the lens of the red carpet, political beliefs, reinvention, ideas conferences, even Hurricane Sandy. She has wondered if branding should begin at birth and whether readers align their leadership style more with Tony Hsieh or Timothy Ferriss. And Salzman recently pondered the “exceedingly strongly branded profile” of the baby arriving to the British monarchy this summer. Look soon for more about Lance, plus CEOs who fly planes, lessons from social media, “bad girl” branding and more.

Personal Branding Around Communities and Political Beliefs

[Originally posted on]

I recently got a humorous pitch from a real estate agent in New Hampshire, where, he wrote in his email, “there is a theme-branding wave that is part capricious, part serious business.” At first his proposal made me giggle, but then I saw how it reflects the ways in which personal branding is growing into community branding and vice versa.

People have long considered where they live to be a central part of their identities and personal brands. Being based in New York City sends a different message from being based in Connecticut, and both tell a vastly different story from having chucked it all to live on a ranch in Montana. States are part of our narratives.

The libertarian-leaning “Live Free or Die” state seems particularly suited to this phenomenon. Its population is small, its political persuasion clearly contrarian and its living conditions harsh. The realtor who pitched me, Mark Warden, had figured out how to take “Brand New Hampshire” to an extreme that, in turn, helped him build his own brand as a property broker and political candidate.

His Free State Project, he told me, has inspired more than 1,000 “liberty activists,” in his words, to move to New Hampshire. The project’s motto is “Liberty in Our Lifetime,” and its concept is to concentrate a large number of libertarian-leaning folks in a place where they can reduce the size and scope of government and improve individual freedom.

Here’s where it gets funny: The FSP mascot is the porcupine—“certainly cute and non-aggressive, but you don’t want to step on them!” says the group’s website—which points out how personal branding can require an occasional willingness to sacrifice some dignity in order to create a memorable identity. The project has spawned an array of branded events, including an annual festival that draws nearly 1,000 people from across the country, the Porcupine Freedom Festival (PorcFest for short). It’s held in a private campground, and Warden calls it “Burning Man meets FreedomFest.”

Warden built his real estate business model around this same branding and focuses his marketing on New Hampshire transplants who are drawn to the state for its ideology, telling “liberty-minded activists” that he speaks their language and understands their needs.

He’s not the first to have adopted the state’s politically oriented branding and the FSP’s particular strain of it for his own personal brand: Porc Manor is a website that caters to landlords and renters of libertarian persuasion, and Porc Therapy is a New Hampshire–produced live radio show and podcast that offers “pro-freedom relationship talk” and focuses on “happiness and freedom” and “explores an eclectic mix of topics, all of which fall under the umbrella of ways that we can all free our minds and attain more liberty in our lives.”

Using the mascot to such an extent might be borderline silly, but nonetheless it seems to be working for these porcupreneurs. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) And it’s yet another clear illustration about how branding is everything and everything is branding these days.