market postioning

Marketing Research and Positioning – or How We All Got Trumped

First of all, this is not a post about whether or not Trump is a good or bad president, or whether he is even fit to hold that type of office. You’ll have your view, I have mine. That’s not what this is about.

The question that should interest every business is this: how did he win, apparently against all the odds?

In marketing terms it comes down to two simple points: knowing your market and positioning.


Trump’s team worked out not just the key states they needed to win but also the specific electors or market segments that would swing the election. They knew they didn’t even need to win a nationwide majority. They knew exactly who they had to target.

What did they do next? Work out a strategy for how they would persuade those crucial electors that Trump was the man they should vote for? Did they hell!

They worked out what was going on in the heads of these people and played it all right back to them.

Market Positioning

No complex arguments, no big policy initiatives. Just simple concepts and slogans that hit a nerve with people who felt left behind by globalisation, the liberal elite (whatever that might be) and progress generally.

People who had a vague sense that America wasn’t the same country they grew up in now had ‘Make America Great Again’ to cling to, and even a hashtag to go with it.

Add in ‘crooked Hillary,’ and ‘build the wall,’ and you have most bases covered.

Never mind that nobody really knows what #MAGA means in any kind of detail (read also ‘taking back control’ with Brexit). Never mind that ‘rescuing’ American steel and coal jobs would mean imposing import tariffs that will raise input costs for all American manufacturers. Those are just the details that nobody cared about.

It was quite a feat for a billionaire born into privilege and entitlement to paint himself as the non-establishment outsider. Someone who would ‘drain the swamp’ (another empty slogan). But sometimes people hear what they want to hear.

And Business?

The point of all this is to think about the way you market your business. And your market positioning.

  • Have you identified your critical market segments (the ones that can deliver the biggest growth and the best margins)?
  • Do you know what’s going on in the heads of those buyers?
  • Do you know how you need to position your brand to appeal to those people?
  • Have you thought carefully about the words and images you need to use to reinforce the positioning you want to achieve.

Before you start spending megabucks on a website, digital marketing, social media and who knows what else, you really need to understand the basics of what your business is and what it needs to ‘mean’ to your prospects.

‘Ahh,’ you might say. ‘Our business is too complex to be reduced to this level.’ So, it’s more significant than deciding who  will lead the most powerful nation on Earth – I don’t think so.

If there’s a difference between political campaigns and marketing it comes down to timescale. Ultimately the reality has to match up to the promise. Less of a problem if you are seeking a four year term of office (but who’s to say Trump can’t pull off the same trick in a couple of years’ time). More of a problem if you are trying to grow a business with a long term future.

What would Trump do’ might not be the best guide for how to live your life, but it might point your way to more productive marketing.

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