Will Trump stay loyal to his brand?

Last week I wrote about what content marketers can learn from Brexit and the US election. But in the wake of Donald Trump becoming president-elect, something quite startling has emerged. Is it me or has he completely changed tack?

Prior to his election, Donald Trump’s campaign was fought on vitriol and sensationalism. Since, there’s no denying his tone has taken on a much more sombre inflexion – it could even be called gravitas and humility. Who’d have thought?

Was he really just saying whatever it took to win? Is he truly waking up to the reality of the job at hand? Have his words suddenly become subject to the many officials now dictating (or trying to) his every move?

With suggestions he’s already looking to retain several of President Obama’s policies – flying in the face of the wild claims that were so integral to his victory – it poses the question as to how far a brand can go back on their values.

In marketing, it’s not uncommon to hear about companies that have failed to make good on their promises to the buyer. But these are usually flagged up on consumer affairs programmes and in newspaper columns for failing to meet the advertising or trading standards. The necessary measures are taken to prevent such bold claims and money is refunded where possible.

But how so for a president?

In the ordinary course of politics, we know that politicians who make claims they can’t possibly fulfil are subjected to fierce criticism. Quite often, however, there is a genuine reason behind this: lack of funds, lack of support higher up, etc.

But will such excuses rub with his supporters? There was a certainty in Trump’s promises – “There WILL be a wall”, he said – that leaves little wriggle room. What’s more, this wasn’t any old political race. It was anti-establishment feeling that bolstered support for Trump, rallying against the political elite who the electorate broadly accepts are liars and cheats (who can forget the appellation “crooked Hillary”).

So surely the man of the people will be held to even greater account since he was elected with a pseudo-optimism – quite simply the assumption he will make good on his promises – he will increase jobs for American citizens – he will make America great again?

In reality, we know it’s going to be very difficult if not unlikely for Trump to pass many of his policies, at least in the way he set them out during the campaign. The president is, after all, just a figurehead – and the world saw how Obama struggled to get many of his policies through Congress. The question is, will Trump’s supporters, the ones that put him in the White House, feel aggrieved?

More than likely. But perhaps not enough to change anything.

Rallying against the result of a vote gets you relatively little in comparison to suing a company for mis-selling in an advertising campaign. When it comes to beneficial claims made by marketers, there are more or less clear lines about the standards that should be conformed to. Not so with a presidency, short of being put on trial for war crimes.

Ah yes, but didn’t you just mention this was a different kind of election? I hear you say.

Yes. But the reality is, Trump has already served his purpose. He is the symbol of white America giving two fingers up to the PC establishment, to multiculturalism, to gender equality. So although I believe he is unlikely to be re-elected in 2020, I don’t necessarily attribute that to him betraying his brand, him deciding not to run again in 4 years time, or because the job will have ground him down (though they are all distinct possibilities). It’s because he is a temporary measure, a symbol of an aggrieved nation. He has already done enough and he isn’t even in power yet. He isn’t the next Coca Cola or McDonalds, here to stay. He is a passing fad.

At present, however, we are still trying to work out just how this anti-establishment figure (who is by his very nature so rooted in capitalist establishment) has managed to become the next President of the United States. Well, just as in marketing campaigns, testing his presidency is the only way to work out how effective his strategy has been. If Trump does indeed pursue a more moderate angle in his presidency, we will find out whether his campaign was truly won on the divisive lines of his policies by the way his supporters respond. Otherwise, we will see this event  for what it was – simply an outpouring of anti-establishment sentiment. But only time will tell.

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