Marketers, Are You Learning the Wrong Lessons from the Election?
Posted on November 15, 2016 by Marian Salzman
Originally posted on CommPro.
At first glance, Donald Trump’s big win on Nov. 8 is the kind of incredible, unexpected, underdog victory that most marketers only dream about.
Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign was a call to action that resonated deeply with a population who felt that they missed or had missed out on an American past of prosperity, possibility and simplicity.
Compare it to Hillary Clinton’s Stronger Together—impossible to cheer and pungent with that new-focus-group smell nobody likes. There was no call to action—nothing active for supporters to do, and it kept focus on a present tense that most people, hungry for change, don’t like. It was “we are” rather than “we will.”
Trump drove and dictated the tone of his campaign personally, lobbing 140-character hand grenades from his Twitter account with “why so serious?” Joker-level mischief and malevolence. It was a communications coup that spoke directly to supporters and punked the mainstream media into free coverage.
The Clinton campaign instead placed faith in the tried and true methods of organization, get-out-the-vote efforts and carefully constructed alliances. And then they lost. Just like Trump said they would.
To brands and marketing managers eager to adopt these principles and strategies, I say—no, plead: Not so fast. The takeaways many see in Trump’s victory could spell disaster for the brands that embrace them.
Remember—there is no electoral college in the marketplace. The fact that Hillary won the popular vote means very little in the context of our democratic process. But it is something that brands should note.
With turnout at a record 20-year low, Trump won with fewer votes than Romney received when he lost. And though Clinton won the popular vote, she did so with 5 million fewer votes than last election. That is known as a declining category.
Much has been made of Trump’s overwhelming support from white men and women. More significant is who showed up for Clinton.
In predominantly Latino areas of Florida, Clinton destroyed Trump—increasing turnout by as much as 16 percent compared to Obama in 2012. Across the country, millennials voted Clinton over Trump by 55 to 37 percent, especially young people of color.
For the audiences that will mean the most to brands in the years ahead, Trump simply did not resonate. And this is the very beginning. How well will Trump play in a year? In three?
I have already heard that this election symbolizes a return to the sweeping swagger of the Bling Era. But remember, it was not the big, empty promises bling brands made that did them in. It was the big, empty promises those brands made and had no way of keeping.
For Trump, who has promised the most lavish of parties—complete with a free wall, mass deportations and high-paying manufacturing jobs—it will take more than a showman’s smirk and a few tweets to remain relevant if he fails to deliver. Don’t let your brand run the same risks.
photo: creativecommons.org/Rich Girard