TRUMP(et) Lessons – What business can learn from Donald Trump

Posted on: November 18th, 2016 by Staffan Engstrom

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-16-53-43I couldn’t believe it when the news about Donald Trump’s win came through. How could such an apparent loud-mouth become the world’s most powerful person?

Love him or loathe him, however, you have to take your hat off to his achievement. He won despite being consistently behind in all the polls, despite the expectations of all the experts and politicians on both sides, and despite all the apparent odds. So how did he do it, and what business lessons can we draw?

He did it by identifying, better than anyone in the establishment, the real frustrations of the US electorate: that the effects of globalisation have seriously adversely affected the prospects of a huge swathe of formerly prosperous blue-collar workers. At the same time, better-off white collar workers had hardly noticed, enjoying the benefits of globalisation in terms of cheaper imports and lower costs.

He did it though brilliant personal communication. I and many others were appalled by the Trump(et) communication style, appearing aggressive, brutish, and arrogant. However Trump saw that the aggression and raw messaging that offended so many was seen by many popular voters as simply being HONEST. For them, it cut through the verbal ‘flim-flam’ of the liberal elite to get to the heart of their issues. (NB: I am not saying that I support the views expressed…)

He did it by understanding that angry, dissatisfied voters are much more likely to vote. THAT is why Trump’s rhetoric was so strong during the campaign, and why its aggression has disappeared since he won (when no longer necessary). THAT is why the polls weren’t wrong, because on an eligible voter basis proportionately more Trump-ists actually turned out.

The big lesson for business is that people (i.e. buyers) make choices based as much on emotion as on rationality. Whilst your pitch to support your product or service needs to have a good supporting rationale, neglecting their emotional triggers is perilous. And when you are clear on what your market messaging should be, focus on getting it out there, trumpets and all.