The appeal of Donald Trump amongst American republicans is perplexing. How can America be close to nominating Trump for the coveted prize of the Republican nomination? From his own words Trump appears bigoted and egotistical. Regardless of his outrageous and incendiary comments, Trump’s popularity remains. Many distinguished political commentators have discussed at length his appeal as an ‘outsider candidate’ for an angry electorate, frustrated at the political ‘elites’ and status quo. However other Republican Presidential contenders have also positioned themselves as political outsiders with reduced success. Whilst Trump no doubt appeals to that small subset of Americans who approve of his racist rhetoric, it is simplistic and unfair to assume that Trump’s popularity is due entirely to racism.
Clearly there are other factors explaining Trump’s meteoric rise, and some of these can be explained by reference to consumer behavior theory.
The role of imagery and music
Imagery, branding and visual cues have all played a large part in Trump’s success. Consumer behavior theory tells us that visual stimuli and music all play a part in how consumers respond to a brand. When viewing the Trump rally’s the strong use of colour (red, white and blue) implies both strength and patriotism.
The music played at the Trump rallies has also been chosen to convey these images of strength and power and opposition to convention. Examples being Trumps entrance (by helicopter) alongside Twisted Sister “We’re not going to take it.” Other additions to the playlists have been Elton John’s “Rocket man” and the Shangrila’s “Leader of the pack.” Interestingly several artists have complained about their music being used in Trump rallys, the British singer Adele being one, as they seek to distance their own brand from that of Trump.
“Trump – HIs very name is powerful” Comedian John Oliver, 2016
Comedian John Oliver cleverly dissected how Trump’s name has contributed to his branding and success. “Trump…his very name is powerful…” “Trump does sound rich…””The very name Trump is the cornerstone of his brand…..
The need for belonging
“I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall, believe me.” Donald Trump, 2016 Presidential campaign.
Donald Trump’s popularity can also be partly explained by people’s innate need for belonging. Everyone belongs to different groups in society, stemming from cultural identity, social class, age etc. Marketers try to position a brand to appeal to a sense of belonging and to those who aspire to be in a particular group. So too has Donald Trump. By creating “Us versus them” scenarios, (for example the USA versus Mexico), Trump is creating a sense of belonging for those who perceive themselves as being in the “Us.”
Lastly consumer behavior theory reminds us that familiarity breeds comfort, and for many brands, there exists “brand zealots.” Trump has benefited from a substantial amount of free publicity, largely due to his outlandish behavior. Such repeated exposure to a brand typically makes consumers more comfortable with the product. Brand zealots are people who adore a brand to such an extent that they are imperious to rational argument and somewhat blind to the faults of a product.
The most pressing question now of course is whether Donald Trump can be defeated or indeed trumped? Given that part of his appeal can be attributed to an astute understanding of consumer behavior, it is likely that he can only be beaten by a candidate who can also use such knowledge to their advantage – over to you Hillary Clinton!
By Carmel Norton: word press name; cnorto
Student number 215033499
Eide, K, market.com blog, “Make your marketing great again; 5 marketing strategies we can learn from Donald Trump.” January 19, 2016 Retrieved 22 March 2016 http://blog.marketo.com/2016/01/5-marketing-strategies-we-can-learn-from-donald-trump.html
Iacobucci, D, 2014 Marketing Management (MM4) South Western, Cenegage Learning, Mason
Richards, C 2016, The Washington Post “Authoritian hold music: How Donald Trumps banal playlist cultivates danger at his rallies.” March 16, 2016 Retrieved 24 March 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/authoritarian-hold-music-how-donald-trumps-banal-playlist-cultivates-danger-at-his-rallies/2016/03/16/723159ac-eab1-11e5-bc08-3e03a5b41910_story.html