How is Donald Trump the Republican nominee?
The Republican National Convention has officially nominated Donald Trump as its presidential candidate. This nomination has shocked many, and I’ll admit that I am thoroughly fascinated by it. How has a reality TV star become a major party’s presidential nominee for the United States of America? While I am fascinated, I am fascinated for a different reason than most. Whether he intended to or not, Donald Trump has used very effective persuasion strategies to convince so many that he is the person to “Make America Great Again.” When it comes to sales and marketing, these same strategies can be used to persuade potential customers to purchase products and services.
I will use Kevin Dutton’s five principles of persuasion to illustrate how Trump has expertly positioned himself as the head of the Republican Party. Dr. Dutton studied masters of persuasion to break down the ability in to five simple principles, abbreviated as SPICE. Whether Trump is aware of these strategies is up for debate, but he is certainly utilizing them.
Trump has kept his message short and to the point. “I’m building a wall” and “we’re going to Make America Great Again” are both examples of this. I like to say, “make it simple enough that a toddler gets it.” Nearly all candidates and companies have taglines, but none have pounded their points into your consciousness as much as Trump. Not only are his messages short and to the point. He continuously says the same simple points over and over again. One of the biggest criticisms of Trump has been a lack of substance and even feasibility of the things he says. However, his poll numbers show that many people are willing to accept a simple, straight forward message over one that is more complex and nuanced.
This approach often is seen in company taglines. Arguably one of the most successful slogans ever, Nike’s “Just Do It,” has been driven into our brains. Another of my favorites is, “Got Milk?” Both of these are simple enough that a toddler can comprehend its meaning. They may not be appropriate for all markets, but they are excellent for reaching the masses.
Any good salesperson knows that you need to appeal to people’s self-interest. “We’re going to win again!” is a regular Trump comment. I often hear politicians ask people for their votes. Perceived self-interest is nothing more than being polite, in my opinion. You want someone to vote for you? Tell them what is in it for them. “I’m going to get you a better job.” “We’re going to pay less taxes.” “Our kids are going to have better schools.”
A good salesperson is a master of perceived self-interest. If you want someone to take action, convince them that what you have to offer will provide an actual benefit to them. In my experience, this is the most valuable rule a salesperson must learn.
Surprise people. No one does this better than Trump. He stands out in the crowd. He calls people names, backs out of debates, challenges Fox News, and even pitches products after a campaign win. I think this is what baffles most political pundits. He does so many unconventional things, yet is seemingly immune to the typical repercussions to such gaffes. Furthermore, to Trump’s benefit, these antics have led to some $2 billion in free advertising this campaign season.
In this age of viral social media, this is as important as ever. When Pete Frates, Pat Quinn, and Corey Griffin wanted to raise money for ALS in 2014, they started something called the ice bucket challenge. It ended up raising over $100 million for their cause and an estimated 17 million people participated. I run into resistance to this with clients all the time. Just putting your name in a magazine is fine, but it does little these days. Your advertising needs to capture people’s attention.
All politicians come off as confident, but Trump takes it to a whole new level. Of the 183 statements Politifact has rated for Trump, only five have been true. Furthermore, 74 have been rated false, and 34 were rated “Pants on Fire!” That mean only 3% of his statements have been accurate, and 59% have been flat out wrong, or worse, blatant lies! Still, he has never said, “I’m sorry,” “I was wrong,” or “I misspoke.” He is the most confident person I have ever seen. Furthermore, he is always quick to say just how smart and great he is. This tactic certainly has a polarizing effect, and I believe this is one of the most significant reasons people loath him as much as they love him. However, when it comes to selling his name and his message, it has certainly been effective.
This confidence is another very powerful trait of successful sales people. We are subconsciously very aware of a person’s confidence. Politicians are always introduced as “the next president of the United States” or your “future Senator from the State of Illinois” because of confidence.
We naturally tend to trust people like ourselves. Trump’s aversion to “politically correctness” is a huge benefit here. Trump has said some things that have offended many people, but many Americans themselves speak that way when they’re not being scrutinized. They’ve never seen a candidate talk openly the way they do amongst friends. As a result, they see Trump more like themselves than other candidates.
Empathy is why advertisers use actors that are the same age, race, and gender as their target demographic. Empathy is also why many American companies advertise that they are American-made. People tend to prefer others like themselves.
Donald Trump is very disliked and even hated by many. Still, his only realistic opponent in this year’s presidential election is arguably the most disliked major candidate in the history of the United States. Hopefully, it is now more clear to you how this has happened. As a bonus, this should provide you with some basic business persuasion techniques in the process.