How To Trump The Competition: 5 Marketing Lessons From The Top

During his short presidential campaign, Trump has attacked Chinese and Mexican immigrants, he's questioned Senator John McCain's military service,  he's suggested that Megyn Kelly was aggressive towards him during the debates because of her menstrual cycle, and he's poked fun at Kim Kardashian's ass.

Yet, according to a Monmouth University survey, released last Thursday, Trump is the leading GOP candidate with 30 percent support, a four-point gain from before the first GOP debate.  He leads in every imaginable category: men, women, old and young voters, etc.  Ben Carson is in a distant second place, with 18 percent 

So how the hell is he doing it and what can we learn from him?


1.     Be Outrageous:  According to a recent poll, 71% of Americans believe political correctness is a problem in this country.  We are so used to politicians carefully planning every speech and public appearance, that Trump is a breath of fresh air for a lot of Americans.  He speaks first, without thinking of the repercussions, and it's pretty entertaining.  Here's a list of some of Trump's most offensive quotes.  These are some of my favorites:

  • "He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured." –Donald Trump on John McCain

  •  "I have a great relationship with the blacks."

  • "All of the women on 'The Apprentice' flirted with me -- consciously or unconsciously. That's to be expected."

  •  "I don't think Ivanka would do that, although she does have a very nice figure. I've said if Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her." –Donald Trump, when asked how he would react if Ivanka posed for Playboy.


2.     Be Polarizing:  If you try to appeal to everyone, you end up not appealing to anyone. If you take a controversial position, half of the people will hate you but the other half will rally around you. 

Remember Chick-fil-A's CEO Dan Cathy's comments condemning gay marriage in 2012?  It set off store picketing and a media backlash but it didn't hurt his business at all; it actually helped because his Christian supporters flocked to the restaurants in droves.

By taking a firm stance on a controversial issue you can also generate a lot of press coverage from your detractors.  It reminds me of the “market research scene” from Howard Stern's movie Private Parts.  

Researcher: The average radio listener listens for eighteen minutes. The average Howard Stern fan listens for - are you ready for this? - an hour and twenty minutes. 

Pig Vomit: How can that be? 

Researcher: Answer most commonly given? "I want to see what he'll say next." 

Pig Vomit: Okay, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern? 

Researcher: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day. 

Pig Vomit: But... if they hate him, why do they listen? 

Researcher: Most common answer? "I want to see what he'll say next.


3.     Trust Your Brand:  Trump is loud, arrogant and outrageous. Instead of running from these negative traits he embraces them, despite negative consequences.

His outrageous comments, over the past several weeks,  have prompted corporations like Macy’s, Serta Mattresses, and NASCAR to dissolve business deals with him. Most celebrities would immediately apologize, to keep those profitable partnerships in tact.  Not Trump.  He sticks to his guns, regardless of the fallout.

4.     Be Transparent: It's normal for a candidate to attack the other party, but attacking your own?  Usually that's done behind closed doors.  Not for Trump. 

He's the leading Republican candidate and he's doing it without party support.  He's actually called for several anti-Republican initiatives, such as: raising taxes for corporations, taxing hedge fund mangers at higher rates, penalizing companies for using tax shelters, and taxing companies like Ford for moving their production overseas. 

Seeing a candidate attack both sides equally, gives them more credibility in the voter's eyes. 

5.     Have Fun:  Does it look like Jeb Bush or Hillary are having fun right now?  No.  They look tired, serious, and worn out! 

Meanwhile, Trump is busy hanging out with celebrities, relaxing at his world class resorts and getting roasted on Comedy Central!  It looks like he's actually enjoying this.

Trump Smile.jpg

He is using the same marketing strategy that soda companies use to sell  to teenagers: Wouldn't you rather vote for the guy hanging with Snoop Dogg than a lady who is dressed like your grandma? 


The presidential election is still a long way off but Trump has already changed the game: He is the first GOP candidate, in recent memory, to have overwhelming voter support, without bowing to the religious right, the NRA or the Republican leadership.

He has shown that being outrageous. authentic and a little nutty works in politics, just like it does on reality TV.   Whatever side of the political spectrum you fall on, you've got to admit, he's made it fun so far. 

I might have to vote for him, just to see his Tweets for the next 4 years!

What do you think?  Does Trump really have a shot to win the election or is his early lead just due to name recognition? 

Do these lessons really apply to business or did I just want to write about Trump?  Are you even reading this sentence?

Tom Ward is a sales and marketing consultant based in Los Angeles, CA.  For consulting or writing requests, please contact him at or visit