After following the presidential election for 18 months and experiencing up close and personal the “best marketing case study ever,” marketing guru David Meerman Scott has concluded: “The best marketer has been elected president.” Here’s what I learned from his presentation at Inbound16, a day after Donald J. Trump became the 45th president of the United States.
Keep it simple: Trump relied on just two strategies, one online—real-time Twitter, the other offline—mega rallies. Both strategies aimed at getting free publicity, and with the aid of provocative sound bytes, Trump ended up generating $5 billion in free media. And the twin strategies were tightly integrated, with online and offline activities and events feeding each other (e.g., proper follow-up online after an event).
Keep it Inbound: Clinton (and Sanders and Bush) followed the old rules of marketing, relying on outbound marketing—spending heavily on advertising, acting like a large company pushing out messages, “targeting” what it thinks are the right “buyers.” The Trump campaign acted like today’s startups, relying on inbound marketing—“instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be.” Trump relied on “the proven methodology for the digital age.”
Keep it focused: Trump created (or vastly expanded) a powerful brand, using a memorable message (and a hashtag #MAGA) while many of her supporters could not recall Clinton’s slogan (“Stronger Together”).
Keep it energized: On Twitter, Trump reacted to news in real-time, generating reactions, conversations, free media, and more and more followers. Offline, Trump energized large audiences—“crowd size does matter,” to quote Kellyanne Conway—and showing off the size of the crowds on TV (for free) certainly mattered a lot.
Keep it up: Trump used every opportunity, including adversarial ones, to promote his message. When Gawker published Trump’s cell phone number (urging readers to call and ask him about his important ideas), anyone who called, as David Meerman Scott did, heard the following recorded message: “I’m Donald Trump and I’m running for the presidency of the United States of America. With your help and support, together we can make America truly great again. Visit me at Twitter @RealDonaldTrump and check out my campaign website at www.donaldtrump.com. Hope to see you on the campaign trail.”
David Meerman Scott called Trump “a marketing genius.” That may be true, but I think it’s more than just the mastery of the mechanics of digital marketing or intuitively understanding why inbound marketing may work better than outbound marketing. Trump understands the most fundamental underpinning of marketing, whether of the old or new variety: Know your customers, what they care about, what will make them act. And in 2016, the pundits suffering from Post-Trump-Matic-Stress-Syndrome notwithstanding, it was not “the economy, stupid.” It was not “jobs” or “globalization.”
It was the people revolting against political correctness, against arrogant and ossified political elites, and Trump’s sometimes revolting statements ensured them, even if they did not agree with some or all of these statements, that this time, they can really hope for a change. When asked in exit polls which candidate quality mattered most, only 35% of the respondents who answered “cares about me,” 26% that said “good judgment” and 8% of the respondents that opted for “right experience,” were Trump voters. But 83% of the respondents that answered “change” were Trump voters (as opposed to the 14% who voted for Clinton).
So I would venture to add another marketing lesson: Keep looking, keep asking what really motivates my customers.
Originally published on Forbes.com