This is the second installment in our series covering the marketing strategies of the 2016 presidential hopefuls. Each post will explore the branding, media, and digital marketing practices of the candidates vying for the top job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Donald Trump has gotten into hot water, but those splashes also elevated the Trump name to the point where nearly everyone is talking about him. He’s been the point of conversation for the GOP Class of 2016 despite having literally no experience in government.
We’re clearly fascinated by this candidate and are watching his every move with a bag of popcorn nearby. Let’s look at how he is trying to “Make America Great Again” and giving us a lot to talk about in the process.
The Trump team has taken a note from his real estate background and opted to use bold, capitalized text within their logo. The branding pieces could be confused for those of his real estate company if not for their American flag-inspired color schemes.
According to Siimon Reynolds of Forbes, Mr. Trump has done everything “by the book” by establishing clear and loud positioning, even when it isn’t for everybody. Others, like Steven Heller of Wired, have called Trump’s branding arrogant, bland, and “completely uninspired.”
Amy McAdams, our associate creative director, was willing to help me out here. Her take:
It’s the visual equivalent to Don’s onion loaf-like coif. What it lacks in visual interest, it makes up for in gradients. I mean, who puts a gradient in a logo these days?! The Don, that’s who.
This is where the man just completely falls apart. The Donald has taken shots at the entire country of Mexico, John McCain, Rosie O’Donnell, and even the darling of Fox News, Megyn Kelly. Additionally, he refused to promise that he would not run an independent campaign against the future GOP Presidential hopeful should he not be selected. Which is a no-no, Glen Coco.
In one instance Mr. Trump joked about John McCain’s role as a prisoner of war in the Vietnam War. Trump stated that McCain “is not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” The line completely infuriated veterans and military supporters and Twitter sentiment for Trump fell from 55% positive to 40% overnight, according to the Sun Times.
Mr. Trump has claimed the coveted prize for being the first candidate in modern presidential primary history to begin the campaign with the majority of his own party (57%) disliking him. In fact, he’s actually turned damn near everyone on the traditionally conservative right against him. After his clash with Megyn Kelly and his thinly veiled suggestion that her harsh style of questioning might have been a result of her menstrual cycle, he was uninvited from an upcoming GOP forum by the event’s organizer, conservative radio host Erick Erickson. Shortly after uninviting Trump, he invited Kelly to fill the vacant speaking spot.
Clearly, Trump’s political incorrectness has made him a notorious figure within the 2016 class of presidential hopefuls. He is crass, hostile, and shows no sign of having any filter whatsoever. Despite all of this, he is currently the leading frontrunner for the GOP nomination with the support of 23% of the Republican primary voters, according to a poll conducted by NBC. His closest opponent, Ted Cruz, lags behind at just 13%.
I never thought I would say this, but here it goes: Donald Trump should be sending me more email. Since subscribing on August 6, I’ve received just two emails: a confirmation of my subscription and an announcement of his participation in the GOP debate with the subject “Trump Wins 1st in GOP Debate.” Never mind that there is no first place in a subjective event like a debate. That kind of talk is for losers.
The formatting of Mr. Trump’s emails is also lacking. The social media icons in the footer are not properly sized (most noticeably the Instagram icon) and the content appears blocky and outdated. The Donald did actually correct the oversized icon by the time I received a second email, so we will give him that.
In addition to being too few and far in between, his emails lack strong calls to action. Consider these two “Thank you for subscribing” emails from the Hillary and Donald camps. Hillary’s email very clearly asks me to invite my friends to join the subscription list, to donate, and to volunteer. Donald’s email has no call to action.
On Instagram, the Republican front-runner spends most of his time slamming Jeb Bush and Rick Perry and fending off his PR nightmares, including getting dumped by NBC, Univision, and Macy’s after his statement that Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” To be fair, he did include that “some, I assume, are good people.”
Trump uses Twitter to thank those who speak kindly of him while launching late-night attacks on those he disagrees with. Following the GOP debate on August 6, he wrote and retweeted nearly 70 tweets within 24 hours. Most were published between the hours of 11 p.m. on the August 6 and 11 a.m. on August 7 and expressed his displeasure with the Fox News employees who coordinated the debate. This would be what I would describe as a Twitter meltdown.
His Facebook account is much calmer. There, he publishes updates about campaign apparel and shares pictures of his family. He still definitely doesn’t like Fox News, but he is less extreme about it and a bit more diplomatic in saying “You’re Fired” to Fox panelist Charles Krauthammer, who said Trump was steering attention away from the GOPs “strongest field of candidates in 30 years.”
According to Amy, the branding for Trump’s campaign isn’t great. She’s not impressed with the blocky look and the gradient on his logo but gave him an F+ because she was feeling generous. Other designers have offered up a few (sarcastic) upgrades, if Mr. Trump is interested.
Trump desperately needs a PR strategy and media coaching. His remarks have thus far settled, but he is bound to cross the line eventually. His team should prep him with interview practice and talking points. Additionally, Trump needs to use his interactions with the media to connect with groups of voters rather than alienating them. The media, specifically a traditionally conservative outlet like Fox News, can help spread his ideas and acquire support from voters.
While they are the most aggressive and uncensored social media accounts I’ve seen from a presidential candidate (or, for that matter, a Real Housewives candidate), The Donald is incredibly active on his Twitter and Facebook accounts. Although a bit less active on Instagram, he does a good job of distancing himself from his competitors and making his thoughts known. I deducted points for his failure to show exactly HOW he differs from the other GOP candidates and for his late-night Twitter rants, which come off as both unprofessional and hostile.
His email strategy is lackluster and desperately in need of calls to action. Although he redeemed himself by correcting the oversized social media icons that we saw in his welcome email, he still doesn’t hold a candle to Hillary’s introduction email. He would do well to coordinate consistent efforts to reach out to his supporters, rather than shoving his message into their inboxes whenever he feels he has something to say.
Cover photo by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.