Whether you love him, hate him, or can’t quite figure him out, you have to admit that Donald Trump’s campaign for president is something to marvel at. I will not get political with this post (translation: I will probably say something that makes someone post something nasty in the comments), but I will share 7 things you can learn from Trump’s campaign to benefit your marketing.

Marketing Lessons from Donald Trump

DISCLAIMER: I am not endorsing Trump’s (or anyone else’s for that matter) campaign tactics, policies, or hairstyle. That said, I’ll probably make at least one or two commentaries that make you disagree with me…and hopefully laugh.

Here are the 7 things you can learn from Donald Trump’s campaign. Each of these, if applied correctly, can greatly benefit your next marketing campaign, whether it’s for your own launch or an affiliate promotion.

1. Passion Trumps Knowledge

Pardon the pun (it was intended), but Trump’s campaign is proof that people are drawn more to passion than policy.

Look at the top candidates this year. I am not dismissing any of their qualifications (they each have their own) but they aren’t exactly policy wonks. But they do have passion. The kind that fires you up, ticks some people off, and gets people to take action.

As marketers, isn’t that what we want? People to take action.

To click.

To subscribe.

To buy.

To buy some more.

To tell three friends.

The Lesson: If you try to promote something you aren’t bouncing off the walls about, it will fail. Only promote things that you are crazy passionate about. Only create things which get you so excited you can hardly stand it.

Marketing Lesson: Donald Trump’s campaign is proof that people are drawn more to passion than policy.

2. Polarization Works

Trump is ridiculed for being such a polarizing figure and I can’t argue with that. But his strategy sure is effective.

Here’s what Trump has done so well:

He has identified his core audience, spoken directly to them in their language, and ignored everyone else. Whether that is best for the country is up for debate, but as a marketing strategy, it is worth copying.

Trump has taken a stand and solidified his base. This base will follow him through hell or high water, even when it’s not in their own best interests. Isn’t that what marketers want from their followers?

The Lesson: Take a stand for something and people will stand with you. Identify your core audience and ignore everyone else.

Stand for something and people will stand with you. Identify your core audience and ignore everyone else.

3. You Must Attract New People Into Your Tribe

The numbers from this campaign don’t lie. Turnout in the Republican primaries is at an all-time high. Not so on the Democrats’ side.

Trump has been amazingly effective at attracting new voters. People who’ve never voted before, who don’t follow politics, and who are turning out for a larger-than-life personality (remind you of anyone in 2008?).

At first glance, this seems to contrast lesson #2, but in a sense they are one in the same. Trump’s message all along is one of anti-establishment. His voters aren’t the typical people who show up on primary day, so he’s focused more on bringing in new people.

If #2 is all about preaching to the choir, so to speak, #3 is about forming your own choir, which is exactly what Trump as done so well.

The Lesson: In order to grow, you must attract new, non-traditional followers into your tribe.

In order to grow, you must attract new, non-traditional followers into your tribe.

4. Define the Problem and Be the Solution

Early on, Trump defined the #1 problem in this country (at least according to him) as immigration.

According to the polls (AKA “market research”), many Americans agreed with him. So, he latched on to a concern and offered his solution.

The Lesson: Find out what your potential customers’ number one problem is and offer the solution.

Marketing tip: Find out what your potential customers’ number one problem is and offer the solution.

Defining the problem isn’t enough, though. You must do as Trump did and…

5. Be Disciplined With Your Message

Once Trump identified immigration as the issue, he practically talked about nothing else. And when he did, he always tied it back to his number one issue.

I wonder if he learned this lesson from George W. Bush, who in his campaigns was equally disciplined with his message. Or perhaps he wanted to be like Nickelback. Either way, he was utterly defiant in staying on message.

The Lesson: Don’t let anything get you off message.

6. Be Willing to Get Crazy

Donald Trump is crazy or at least acts like it. There I said it.

The amazing thing about him is that what drives his opponents nuts is what makes his supporters love him. That he is “out there.” He is saying things that no one else is saying. He is doing things that no one else is doing.

He gets crazy.. And crazy gets attention.

Crazy stands out.

Crazy polarizes (see #2).

Crazy is memorable.

Like him or not, Donald Trump is no fool. He, in fact, is quite brilliant, and I believe a lot of his craziness is an act that serves as an ends to his means.

Years ago, an interviewer asked the comedian Chris Rock if he was always so amped up. He told them that people don’t pay to see “normal” Chris Rock. They pay to see “CHRIS ROCK.” In other words, they pay to see the crazy version of him.

The Lesson: Extreme positions make you memorable. To get attention, you might have to get a little crazy.

Extreme positions make you memorable. To get attention, you might have to get a little crazy.

7. Fear Sells…Really Well

According to Trump, if he is not elected, our country will immediately be overrun with foreign terrorists, the economy will collapse, and large animals will openly prowl the streets. (That might be an exaggeration or it might not. I’m actually not sure.)

I am not judging the morality of how Trump has used fear politically, but it works. It works in politics and it works in marketing.

You don’t have to take it to the extremes that Trump has, though. And it can be used in an ethical way.

For instance, if you are promoting a fitness product to overweight people, you can legitimately cite the statistics that suggest that being overweight will shorten one’s lifespan. It is possible that they might miss their grandchildren’s births. It is scary to think of having to be on medication for the rest of your life. It is terrifying to think of not being able to climb a flight of stairs on your own.

Those are legitimate ways to use fear effectively.

The Lesson: Fear, when used ethically, is a powerful marketing tool.

Fear, when used ethically, is a powerful marketing tool.

Regardless of who you cast your vote for this year, you can learn a lot from this remarkably crazy campaign season. Even from Donald Trump.

What marketing lessons have you learned from the campaign this year?


Text me anytime at (260) 217-4619.

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6 thoughts on “What Donald Trump Can Teach You About Great Marketing

  1. Dan Miller says:

    Man I love the points you’ve made here. So right on. I agree we can learn from observing Trump regardless of our political bent. And incidentally, I’ll be voting for *******************

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That’s exactly who I am voting for Dan 🙂

      Amazing what you can learn from the strangest places if you look hard enough haha.

  2. Jim Woods says:

    One thing I think that is worth mentioning is that Trump was already very, very well known before he thought of running for office. That brand awareness has to be an important part of his marketing success.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Great point Jim. In politics and in life, nothing can compare to name recognition.

  3. Abiola O. Omodele says:

    You’re so right with these lessons on Trump’s marketing. Although I don’t live in the US but I’ve followed both Republican and Democratic campaigns and debates. I noticed most of the things you’ve mentioned in Trump’s campaign and debates; it has earned him free media publicity in and outside the US.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      He’s proof I guess that all publicity is good publicity, at least in politics.

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