Listening to Trump on January 6th, men and women believed him and followed his orders to storm the Capital. And, like him, they showcased their words and actions on social media.
Having incited the insurrection with his words, the 45th President of the US was impeached 10 days later in the House of Representatives.
As a result, tens of thousands of military reserves who’ve had background checks and carry military weapons are now in the US Capitol and other state institutions to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.
These aren’t my personal political views.
Rather they’re the result of the 45th President’s words who gave his followers a clear call-to-action. They’re recorded in his tweets, press conferences and live events during his presidency.
The Power of Words
To be clear, I’m writing to show you that the power of words, both yours and those of your organization, has to sway your audience to action.
As a marketer, this has serious implications for your brand equity and long-term business value.
Trump has a long history of playing into the fears of people who feel outnumbered by people they view as inferior. While mainly targeted at Black Americans, this extends to other groups with identifiable differences most notably immigrants (mainly Hispanics), Jews and individuals who identify as LBGTQ+.
As Yuval Levin of the American Enterprise Institute points out, “[Trump] has proven to have a solid political sense and a nose for where his voters are.”
As early in his Presidency as Tuesday, August 15, 2017, Trump signaled to white nationalists that he was willing to support them. At a press conference Trump responded to how violent and ugly the Charlottesville Marches turned by saying:
“I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there is blame on both sides, … You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides,” (Source: ABC News August 8, 2018)
Despite his veneer of business success, Trump has a bully’s ability to create nicknames like Lyin’ Ted Cruz and Sleepy Joe Biden that stick like glue to their intended target. In a marketing world he’d be considered a copy genius like madman David Ogilvy.
While what he says isn’t necessarily grounded in fact, like any good marketer, Trump knows that repetition and memorability matter. It’s a page straight out of classic P+G positioning and advertising to build brand equity overtime.
What Marketers Can Learn From the 45th President
Unlike major corporate brands, Trump has sought to fill his personal wallet while stoking his own delusional view of grandeur. (If this were a Shakespearean play, Trump would be King George III.)
Further, the 45th president has the keen marketing sense to build community identification by selling “Trump” branded merchandise.
In addition to creating a revenue stream, his followers proudly display their affiliation just as sports fans wear team-logoed clothes.
For marketers, branded merchandise increases sales and attracts prospects:
- Add one or more additional revenue streams by extending your product offering. This is often referred to as licensed product and it can take a variety of formats. For some brands such as Star Wars and Marvel, this translates to big business. (BTW, I know this first hand since I sold Star Wars and Star Trek merchandise and books.)
- Use branded give-aways to attract prospects. Often referred to as tchotchkes or premium products, these offerings get people to stop at your booth at a conference or other event and share their contact information or watch your product demonstration.
What You Say Matters: How Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Combined Words With Actions
Trump’s divisive leadership has further polarized Americans. Even worse, it’s given tacit permission to other countries by showing that the US is no longer a beacon of democracy.
In stark contrast, we observed MLK Day this week. It honors a man of true principle and one of the most eloquent leaders of the 20th Century.
King knew his words mattered. Like Lincoln, he spent hours revising his speeches until they could move people to hope and activism. In fact, he had a marketer’s sense to copyright his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Unlike Trump, King earned his support and respect through peaceful public demonstrations. Most notably, he and his followers walked from Selma to Montgomery Alabama in protest.
Why Leaders Must Serve a High Social Goal: How To Bring Your Community With You
Further King didn’t achieve this alone; he had support from men who believed in the same higher cause, “Equality for all men, women and children.” (Among the notable inner circle of his team were John Lewis and Hosea Williams.)
King and others in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s worked to bring down segregationist practices like where they could sit on a bus and which water fountains they could drink from.
Looking back on this experience with a 2021 perspective, it may not seem like the Civil Rights Movement went far enough; but, at the time, it was major. And many unarmed men and women suffered police beatings and imprisonments to achieve this.
As a pastor, Dr. King understood how to use words to inspire his Ebenezer Baptist Congregation by painting images of a better world.
This tradition continues through recent history. Reverend Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al Sharpton and Reverend Raphael Warnock (who has become Georgia’s first Black Senator).
What does this mean for your business?
Understand that words matter, especially when re-enforced with consistent actions.
Because this isn’t just about politics and social issues; it’s about whether your audience trusts your organization to do what is right!
According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, about half of people distrust CEOs! BUT, 3 out of 5 people trust their employer.
So listen to and take care of your employees.
How Your Brand Can Support Your Community During Difficult Times
During periods of financial stress and insecurity, customers’ purchases are driven by monetary constraints. But, during this COVID period where health considerations outstrip costs, trusted brands have an advantage.
What does this mean for your marketing?
- Position your business to align with serving higher social good.
- Provide leadership to fill unmet community needs to build loyalty across buyers, employees and community.
It’s not easy in today’s environment where you’re squeezed to:
- Upgrade and innovate your technology (including internal infrastructure) to meet changing customer expectations and
- Cut costs to keep your business going.
To show your audience that your words and actions are aligned:
- Know Your Customer (aka: KYC) by actually talking to them to discover what their wants and needs are.
- Put marketing and business dollars where your mouth is. And you do this by supporting minority-run and local business – not just offering window dressing. (Hat tip: Sydni Craig-Hart)
Because your broader audience is listening and watching to hold you accountable.
Why Your Words and Actions Need To Be Aligned
With the hopefully peaceful transfer of Presidential power this week, Americans have a reason to hope. So we can continue to build and strengthen our democracy.
Like a good marketer who aligns their brand with the higher needs of their their customers, employees and community, Biden:
- Understands deep personal loss making him empathetic. After losing his first wife and daughter in a car accident, he later lost a son to cancer. These are among the worst losses a person can experience in life.
- Supports his wife Jill’s career in education. In addition to this crucial respect for his spouse, he understands that children need quality education.
- Appreciates working with women regardless of background. He chose Kamala Harris as his Vice President.
- Has accepted and made public his personal challenges with stuttering. It makes him more human and relatable.
In addition to hoping that you, your family and friends, and your community stay healthy and safe. And that we can find renewed hope as our country starts a new Presidency.
As always feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or other input that can help our broader community.
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