Trump 2016: A Rebranding Challenge

Hey, it’s Donald. Love him or hate him, he is what he is. And actually, that just might be his advantage. While the masses may associate his brand with “You’re Fired” or his celebrity status or being a real estate mogul, Trump actually has few personal brand attributes that, with the right spin, the American public just might be into.

Trump’s politics are not politics at all, his politics are “business”, and there something refreshing about that. He has a “screw you and take no prisoners” tenacity that impresses. He’s a fiscal conservative who’s had undeniable business success – he make things bigger and better. He seems to care about this country more like a citizen and less like a politician. He comes across as a guy who does what he says he’s going to do, an elusive trait in many politicians. And he is decidedly not the old status quo. Which is a good thing considering the GOP field so far. If he were to actually run, he might position well against everything most people hate about politics. His current campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” is most easily said by someone who does not fit the traditional mold. People are certainly skeptical of politicians and lucky for Trump, he doesn’t have to be one.

Trump’s position as a non-politician might give new voters and disenchanted non-voters (typically the targets of the Democrats) a viable GOP option potentially derailing the Democrats attempt to expand the electorate. Historically, the larger the electorate, the better change the Democrats have to win, and Trump’s appeal might well throw a wrench in that.

Trump always seems to show up at the beginning of an election cycle and then disappear so it’s hard to know if people would even take him seriously. Could he win? I don’t know. I do know it would have to start with a carefully crafted repositioning of his personal brand. And for any brand guy, redefining Trump would be a blast. It would need to be executed with a focused branding mindset and all the marketing rigor that goes with it. Here’s where I’d start.

What are the Trump brand attributes today?
How Trump is perceived today? Not a huge challenge, as Trump’s brand is right out there for all to see, and best of all, his is already a well known and truly authentic brand. He is what he is, you get what you get, and people appreciate that. There is a lot to leverage.

Identify which brand attributes are exploitable points of leverage in the context of a Presidential race and within the competitive set.
What makes Trump different, what can Trump own? When expressed in the context of a presidential race, which attributes are positive and unique takeaways for voters? It may require assigning new meaning to attributes in this new context. It’s about using what he is and giving those attributes contextual value.

Develop a personal brand statement and brand guide.
Leveraging those brand attributes, articulate the Trump brand as you want it perceived. Develop a personal brand statement that will single-mindedly positioning Trump. Consider developing a personal brand logo, and establish brand guidelines, from fonts to colors.

Develop the story.
Voters like a good story; the brand narrative needs to be written. History, strengths, even the weaknesses need to be articulated as compelling. For example, not being a politician may be perceived as a handicap to some, but has great value to others. What are the key messages and how will the story be told? Trump will need to embrace his past, be true to himself so as not to be seen as creating artificial poll-driven personality changes. It’s a delicate craft.

Create the sound bites.
What is the brand promise? What are the singular brand attribute and messages that should be propagated and reinforced across all tactics? What are the key sound bites? Branding is frequency over time of a consistent, single-minded and memorable message. It is that consistent brand impression, not extensive research, that often informs the decision for many voters.

The last point is particularly relevant considering the following statistic: According to a 2012 Research Now study commissioned by CAB, 68% of undecided voters are undecided up to a week before a national election. Clearly these voters’ last-minute decisions rely less on actual research and more on brand exposure and sound bites.

Trump’s contrarian, non-politician brand may well be his opportunity, his differentiator. He’s the anti-politician and that could be a pretty appealing position.

So, with the right branding, do you think he would stand a chance?