Following a strong Super Tuesday, most of earth’s population is thinking the same thing: Donald Trump isn’t actually going to become the world’s most powerful man, is he?
This is a man who spews sexist and racist vitriol. A man who is incapable of clearly stating his position on just about anything, other than he’s “going to hire the best people and we are going to win.” A man with no political experience, with a ridiculous haircut and a ridiculous tan. A man pandering to Christian conservatives, despite knowing nothing about the Bible and who is on his third wife, who is 25 years younger.
The obvious question – how? How is he doing it? How is Donald Trump actually a legitimate presidential candidate?
It really comes down to one thing: Trump has mastered one marketing technique. He has declared against something incredibly unpopular – status quo politicians – and has refused to back down.
And it is working, big time.
And here’s the thing: Trump isn’t the first to do this. Some of the world’s most famous businessmen have done the same thing, chief among them Steve Jobs. The big difference is that Trump is using it to gain power, while Jobs and others used it to grow their companies.
Dissecting Trump’s war: A no-holds-barred assault against the conventional.
There’s a mountain of evidence that America has grown tired of its politicians. Congress’s approval rating stands 11 percent, and has been that low for some time. Only 33 percent of Americans have faith in the presidency and 32 percenthave faith in the Supreme Court.
Why? There are a lot of reasons. The constant bickering, the government shutdown and this new trend where everything becomes political certainly didn’t help. But, even more than that, the real culprit is a genuine lack of sincerity and imagination.
Even before shows like “House of Cards”, Americans knew, in their heart-of-hearts, that politicians are (generally) power-hungry, sleazy deal makers who would sell out their own mothers for a vote. And yet, they act like they are the most caring, compassionate people in the world, who enjoy kissing babies and their perfect, affair-free families.
No one is buying it anymore.
And, worse that that, they are predictable. Most politicians give the same, boring, predictable speeches wherever they go. Their responses are so contrived, so boilerplate, you can anticipate what they are going to say before they ever say it. All that equates to an unenviable persona: both boring and insincerely politically correct.
Than Trump came, and was the exact opposite.
In one of his first appearances, he said this about Arizona Senator John McCain, who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam (start at the 20-second mark):
After he said that, Trump’s numbers skyrocketed. Why?
It wasn’t because people agreed with his statement, because his statement was so ridiculous, no one could possibly agree with it. Especially not conservatives, who are the most pro-military group in the country.
His numbers skyrocketed because it was the exact opposite of what every other boring, predictable, insincere politician would have said. People are so tired of the bland, the status quo, they appreciated when someone broke free from it.
Even when the comment was insane.
Next step was another early media appearance by Trump, where he wore this ridiculous hat:
You can’t tell me someone can wear that hat and be serious. Instead, with that hat, Trump was mocking the photo op culture of politicians, and proclaiming himself the opposite of the boring and predictable.
Next came the personal attacks. Specifically, he focused his energy, his vitriol against the one candidate who best represented what he was going to war with: Jeb Bush.
Bush is the ultimate personification of the political status quo, considering his father and his brother were both president. He’s made a political career out of saying boring, predictable things and taking all the boring, predictable actions a Republican candidate should, if they want to be president.
He’s also completely devoid of charisma and redefines the phrase “lame white guy.” Trump took one look at him and smelled blood, running commercials like this:
He went on to call Bush a “low energy” “unhappy person” “who couldn’t negotiate his way out of a paper bag.” When other politicians called him out for acting like that, Trump responded with even more outrageous insults (it picks up at the 1:40 mark):
After every one of these incidents, people asked how can you vote for this guy, what is his appeal? Well, the appeal didn’t come necessarily from agreeing with what Trump was saying.
Instead, the appeal came from what Trump represented: the opposite. To his supporters, Trump was taking on something they passionately hated – the status quo politician. Therefore, the more outrageous he acts, the more insane his proposals, the more he’s winning his war against the predictable, the boring and the insincere.
And the more votes he’ll get.
Donald Trump is not the first person to do this. Just ask Steve Jobs.
In no way is this a novel concept. Other politicians have tried doing what Trump’s done, but the problem is they begin to act too much like typical other politicians themselves, and a clear line isn’t drawn.
Trump, with the hair and the tan and the insults, is incapable of ever looking or acting like a typical politician. And that’s why it has been working for him.
But business people have used this technique before, to great success. And there’s no better example than Steve Jobs.
Just look at Jobs’ most iconic commercial. In it, he essentially proclaims war against the status quo – in this case, apparently boring, soulless computer companies – and offers up his own version of freedom:
The premise here is ridiculous. Buying a computer from Apple will make you no more free than buying a computer from IBM. And yet, it worked, because IBM (at the time) represented something a lot of people didn’t like: large, seemingly soulless corporations.
But Jobs is hardly the only one, countless companies have declared war against something, to various levels of success. A more recent example is Dollar Shave Club, a very successful young company that has implicitly declared war against “Big Razor.”
What this all means to you
Declaring war is among the boldest marketing techniques out there. For that reason, it attracts bold personalities, like Trump or Jobs or the CEO of Dollar Shave Club.
Does it work? For a bit. Much like Trump, you can use it to get some attention for yourself, fast. But, after awhile, you probably are going to need some substance.
There’s another way to think about it though – are you a ripe target for someone to declare war on you? In other words, is there enough acrimony out there against you, where someone could get a lot of support just by being the opposite of what you represent?
Truth is, some companies that are. If I owned a renewable energy company, I’d declare war on Big Oil, and I have a feeling it’d go far. The Department of Motor Vehicles is probably the ripest of all targets to go to war with, although there doesn’t appear to be much reason to.
A solution? Declare a war on yourself (internally). Find out what you should be doing better, what are the things you do that really annoy people. And then fix them.
Or else, there’s a chance you’ll have to deal with a Donald Trump-type. And you definitely don’t want that – just ask Jeb Bush.
One promise about Dan Berith and the Plight of the Lions – you’ll never experience a faster read in your life. And it just might change your perspective on things.