20 Jul Donald Trump’s inadvertent lesson in messaging
Years ago, I “carried a bag” in the technology industry. There were very few women in the industry – I think three of us sold those kind of services in Minneapolis at the time. Every time I see or hear Donald Trump I’m reminded of the bombastic salesmen against whom I competed in the late ’80’s and early 1990’s. In fact, these were the ones who called me honey and patted me on the head right up until I stole their business. Then they just got mad – which made me very happy.
Let me explain this persona of this “sales guy” I know so well. They weren’t (and aren’t, for that matter) bad guys, they actually had good intentions and many were loving husbands and fathers. They have one major common characteristic that brings them down every time however – they don’t believe in messaging. Don’t confuse this with the Don Draper persona. Although Draper could shoot from the hip, he planned his creative and messaging carefully. Although like Draper, the Donald Trumps of the world are also highly skilled in the art of persuasion, they don’t believe in the power of the carefully crafted message. Nope, not for them. Send them your talking points and they’ll make up their own every time.
Like Donald Trump many of these sales guys eventually become entrepreneurs. As a marketing consultant, I’m working with them instead of selling against them. Unfortunately many have retained their old habits of shooting from the hip and ignoring attempts at messaging. Or if they do plan messages, they change them up every 2-3 weeks. They’ll be in a meeting with a potential client and suddenly a fantastic new phrase drops fully formed from their lips. These silver tongued devils then rush back to the office declaring they’ve found the phrase that will become the next company tagline, or headline all the new brochures.
For a while, this shoot-from-the-hip approach can be attractive to customers (or constituents) who are tired of the status quo and want a fresh voice. As Nancy Henson so articulately pointed out in her piece this month , its appeal was so strong it got Jesse Ventura elected here in my home state. Yet this marketing version of “stop the presses” causes major disruption and usually, failure.
Integrated marketing takes a great deal of consistency and persistence. If he continues to refuse talking points and neglects the importance of position messaging, Donald Trump will most certainly stick his foot in his mouth one too many times. Or he’ll slowly lose his contingent of angry white men as his offenses continue. Frankly, he’s got no brain/mouth buffer. That may work well in sales and as an entrepreneur. For effective long term marketing, and definitely in a presidential campaign, it’s the kiss of death.
I just hope I get to see a debate before that happens.