Dr. Jürgen Häusler about the Trump brand
“We are going to win so big … we are going to win so big … we are going to win so big … we are going to win so big”, was the quintessence of the message Donald Trump delivered when he first appeared at the Republican Party’s nominating convention, the event which made him a presidential candidate and in turn, stunned the political world as he continues to push his successful marketing campaign forward. (brandchannel on June 6, 2016).
Making it Fun
“Are you having fun?” was the question at the heart of Donald Trump’s second stage appearance at the Republican convention. The audience, his followers, indeed seemed to be having fun. Certainly the “amusement park” atmosphere (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, July 21, 2016) with Trump t-shirts, buttons, caps and mugs provided colorful, shrill, crazy, numbing entertainment which was only briefly interrupted by short content messages. Traditional, more politically interested observers are clearly shaken: “No pretense of policy substance – he’s not appealing to the rational parts of people’s brains, and he is proud of it. How it all adds up, I don’t know – I am not the intended audience for these speeches.” (Nate Silver on Twitter).
Donald Trump is proud of staging these events. They provide him with the opportunity to exhaustively address his target group as he did in his last appearance, a historically unique, long acceptance speech which portrayed him as being authentic (“he says what he thinks”), appealing (“he understands us”) and different (“at last, the inhibiting constraints of political correctness can be tossed to the way side”). He thrills the political consumer who eagerly hunts for ever new consumer experiences even when it comes to politics. Trump feeds this consumption binge without any fear of a hang-over the next morning even when suffering, poverty and misery, crises, violence and wars are addressed.
Fueled by Hate
For all intensive purposes, one should think that such admissions foretell the end of the world. The end to America is approaching because the American dream has become a nightmare for so many. This is what his competitors achieved: “death, destruction, terrorism and weakness”.
Yet even in spite of this message, why shouldn’t the political debate be fun? The “Trumpeters”, (Sarah Palin) are neither a political party nor an organized political campaign. Rather an emotionally fired sales campaign is being driven as (finally) hate against the “others”, those in Washington, Hillary Clinton, is allowed to play a prominent role. Hillary is not only to be defeated in the election campaign but is on trial. Charges are being pressed and a verdict delivered: “Guilty!” The punitive demands range from “Lock her up!” to that she should be “shot for treason”.
Hate unifies, motivates and agitates. It has the potential to stir the dynamic forces of beloved competition to a maximum level and promises “huge” change (according to the otherwise damned to insignificance vice presidential candidate.) Should this change come about, “…very soon, you would beat someone instead of them beating you.” (NYT 22.7.2016).
What will the future with Trump be like? Great – for those who are included. Those with well-paid jobs, with safe streets, those belonging to the powerful global network. The others will pay for erecting exclusionary walls, will generously support the United States financially and driven by guilt, will revise existing agreements, ruefully give up their jobs all over the world and give back those jobs and remain more or less voluntarily out of the picture or disappear (behind bars or under ground).
According to this version of political marketing adding more details to the simplicity would diminish the persuasive power of this “fictional expectation” (Jens Beckert, Imagined Futures. Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics, Harvard University Press, 2016.). In the middle of the alleged apocalypse with ubiquitous crises, overwhelming risks, unbearable uncertainty and the paralyzing fear of the future, in order to win, the vision of possible “imagined futures” has to be simple: “Make America Great Again”.
Victory, a self-fulfilling prophecy
Can this vision of the future become a reality? Obviously, in order to succeed Trump will have to convince all others, that is more than the other half in the United States and the rest of the world, to play along. Even the smallest doubt whether the necessary deals can be reliably implemented, would unnecessarily question Donald Trump’s forecast for the future of the United States. Therefore, his vision of the future must be presented as being so unquestionably successful that victory is inevitable: “I alone can fix it.”
Meanwhile, the sheer momentum of the movement surrounding Donald Trump has become impressive to all those watching. It is alarmingly gripping (“Can he actually make it?”) or motivationally inspiring (“He can do it!”). Similar to a natural disaster or a miracle, his success seems to be as unstoppable. The expected victory attracts large scale political engagement. The Trump brand has obviously exactly those qualities needed to motivate about 40 percent of the electorate in the US to vote for him – which is needed to achieve victory. The lack of political experience and character as well as questionable entrepreneurial practices do not count for this target group. What counts is the future he is offering. This is attractive enough to guide their actions and thus to help determine results on election day. And nothing seems to motivate better than victory itself which Trump already seems to have in his pocket. “We are going to win so big.”
“Make America Great Again” is obviously only a slogan of the brand Trump grabbed from the toolbox of political marketing. As such though, it is everything needed when it comes to symbolizing the broadly formulated promise. More substance must not and probably will not be delivered to influence the voters of this specific target group. At this time, how the brand promise will be delivered in case of victory need not be addressed and may remain quite unclear for Trump’s audience. For the rest of the world, it would be best if it remains that way forever.
PS: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Häusler is brand expert and member of our board of directors.