It’s an old advertising/marketing adage: If everyone zigs, you zag.
What this means is you have to stand out, do the unexpected, un-follow the herd. We have a prime illustration of how successful this strategy can be in Donald Trump. He has been so successful, in fact, he could become the next POTUS, a terrifying thought.
Like a lot of media commentators, I stated early on Trump was a passing fancy, a man of the moment. I thought he would fade and soon. After all, how could someone who says and does such absurd things be taken seriously by voters?
I was so wrong and as a communication expert, I should’ve known better.
First, I always thought his slogan was perfect and the best of the lot, by far. I still do. “Make America Great Again” hits so many marks in message creation and framing, it’s hard to know where to start.
Second, since he announced over 8 months ago, he has been a daily fixture in the media. No other candidate has come close, not even Hillary Clinton. Trump knows it’s a bad day when he’s not being covered. He takes the cliché, “the only thing worse than bad publicity is no publicity,” to new heights.
Third, he has a strong POV and no filters.
Fourth, he knows what the media wants. More important, he knows what many people want and has tapped into how they are feeling. He says and does things that we have never seen publicly in a presidential candidate before. We’re shocked, but titillated. We shield our eyes, but we cannot turn away. We all say, “Oh, how awful,” but we secretly admire his chutzpah and skill (at least I do). We even agree with him on some things. We cannot stop reading and watching. As a result, the long-suffering press industry has been presented with a financial windfall and, thus, has a stake in keeping him front and center.
It’s a very hungry beast and Trump knows how to feed it.
Trump knows the more outrageous his statements or behaviors, the more likely it is he’ll be covered. So he makes a habit of it and the media jumps. The outcome is all Trump all the time, a level of saturation that big advertisers can only dream of and Trump is getting for free! If you’re inclined to believe “A Diamond is Forever” or “You’re in Good Hands With All State,” then it stands to reason that “Make America Great Again” and its author have made a little home in that place in your brain that wants desperately to believe someone is out there who can make it all better.
Donald Trump may be the greatest “zagger” in modern times and though I personally think a President Trump would be a disaster (to use one of Donald’s favorite words), there are several things we can learn by watching him:
- Identify what makes you different. Trump thinks of himself as the “strong man” among “weaklings.” He demonstrates it through his words and behavior. Your differentiator could be the way you serve clients or do your work. It can be your online branding or even your personal attire. Figure out how to “show, not tell.”
- Follow your instincts. Unlike Donald Trump, most of us have filters. That is a double edged sword. It’s good if it enables you to entertain opposing viewpoints. It’s bad if it keeps you from saying something that needs to be said. If you feel something or hear that little voice, or if something doesn’t quite fit, acknowledge it, make sure stakeholders know your thinking and why, quickly course-correct, and move on.
- Know what you know. Certitude has always been a great sales technique and Trump has an excess of it. There are things we all know to be true others may find controversial. Don’t be afraid to state them unequivocally and remain steadfast in the face of criticism and pushback. It may mean some clients fall away or you push them away or find employment that’s a better fit. This can be so difficult and painful, but it’s also freeing and will create space for better things ahead.
- Stick with it. Discipline is key. Trump has been doing his zagging consistently since he announced last June. Consistency works… even if what someone is saying is ridiculous. Why is this? Because repetition has a way of inspiring belief. (Again, I refer you to the major advertisers.) Don’t give up. If you become dislodged, get back in there.
Learn from Donald Trump, but don’t be like Donald Trump. He may be a role model as a marketer, but not as a human being and certainly not as a leader for this country. In his case, they are separate. In yours, they shouldn’t be.