The Donald just Trumped them all
“He’s a brash, bigoted, loud mouthed Vulgarian who hasn’t got a snowflake’s chance in hell of being taken seriously by the electorate, let alone winning their vote”.
Yes, that was the received pre-Brexit wisdom on Nigel Farage. And yet in the stunned silence of that post-Brexit dawn it became clear that he, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove had pulled it off.
Despite the fiasco that followed, the British people had spoken. The American people have now spoken as well, claimed ‘The Donald’ as their next President, and in the process proved their opinion pollsters are just as reliable as ours.
Reams of copy have been written about the Trump brand in the marketing press over the last few months: how he thinks his name alone is worth $6bn, how he doesn’t really still own all those buildings but still gets advertising revenue for them carrying his name and the Trump Steak Selection – four steaks and twelve burgers for only $199 – he really is what the Americans would call ‘a piece of work’.
Even so his progress to President flies in the face of all expectation. Despite his every effort at self-destruction by alienating huge swathes of the population and his unapologetic locker room braggadocio, he appeared to be indestructible – like Yul Brynner’s unstoppable robot in the original West World he just kept going on.
So what is it about the Trump brand that stamped itself so indelibly on the American consciousness and persuaded so many of them to hail him as their champion?
It seem ironic that the poor whites from whom a large proportion of his support comes should identify with a billionaire businessman, who is hardly a self-made man, but one who has at least lived the American dream, and now holds it out to them as a prize.
He’s also traded on his celebrity as the host of The Apprentice, which attracted audiences of little short of 10 million viewers. They say self-praise is no recommendation but Trump is not troubled by modesty and decided to build his personal brand from the outset, endorsing himself, originally by plastering his name across a succession of hotels, casinos and golf courses, and more recently a range of luxury product lines including Trump clothing, foods and home furnishings – with Trump gold brick chocolate bars being a best seller and probably the only item that the average American could afford to buy and share in the Trump dream!
To debate the election promises is almost missing the point. In simplistic marketing terms It’s bit like debating the rival claims of Fairy and Persil or Heineken and Stella Artois. It’s not so much the product – or in this case the policies (on immigration, jobs, taxes etc) as the brand identity or personality of the candidate and the public’s belief in their ability to deliver.
Brands that have invested in ‘emotional value’ weather the rough times better than others and politicians that the electorate can connect with at an emotional level win elections. And the one great strength of the Trump brand is the perceived absence of political spin or pandering to the establishment.
Sure he fights dirty, he’s a narcissistic pit bull and flings mud around like a child flinging silly putty, but basically he is what he is and what you see is what you get, like it or not.
He’s honest in the sense of being open (on the surface at least), even if what’s on view isn’t all that pretty. He also has the advantage of having no political history of intrigue and corruption. In fact no political history at all. Which gives him a decided advantage in appealing to a somewhat jaded populace.
I may be underestimating him here (and I wouldn’t be alone in that!) but I don’t think he has the temperament to be continually devious, and he’s certainly too stubborn a character to be the puppet of a Mandelson-like Svengali. We all thought that the tenor would change when he got the nomination, but if anything it got more strident – he knows what works; for now.
As the televised debates have shown, it’s all largely a matter of show business. As long as people believe in your story you’re made. Trump, with his showman background has traction here and sounds as if he might actually have met some ‘real people’ for a change. He was probably paying them minimum wage, but at least he met them.
As a lady from Republicans abroad said and quickly tried to retract: ‘The American people have elected an entertainer in chief’. And thanks to his teams mastery of the social media channels and Facebook’s reinforcement of any given opinions that neatly match our own he can entertain at will, whilst neatly jamming the opposition viewpoint.
The post falsely claiming that the Pope endorsed Trump has more than 868,000 Facebook shares while the story debunking it has 33,000. To quote another politician: ‘Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it’.
Not Donald Trump this time – Adolf Hitler.