The Trumping of America 

In September 2015, I predicted Donald Trump would win the White House simply because of his mastery of psychology-based marketing. He did not prove me wrong, for better or worse. While I don’t want to discuss the pros and cons of Trump’s win, I do want to review the lessons his campaign presents to brands when it comes to understanding human psychology and tapping into our emotions, thoughts, behavior, votes and purchases.

Donald TrumpIn September 2015, I predicted Donald Trump would win the White House because of his mastery of psychology-based marketing. He did not prove me wrong, for better or worse.

While I don’t want to discuss the pros and cons of Trump’s win, I do want to review the lessons his campaign presence demonstrated. Successful branding comes with an understanding of human psychology, which enables us to tap into our audience’s emotions, thoughts, behavior, votes and purchases.

I will reiterate Trump’s successful campaign strategies:

“I’m Just Like You”

Trump’s goofy, off-the-cuff persona made him real and approachable. He was not polished, like the politicians he promised to “drain from the swamp.” Instead, he was candid, said things he shouldn’t have, and sniffed and grumbled, like all of us do. He was human.

Follow the Winner

From the beginning of the campaign all of the way to the end, Trump’s stump speeches all followed the same theme: “I’m winning. Here, there and everywhere. And I’m winning bigly.”

Popularity Matters

Life is a popularity contest and any publicity is good publicity. Trump successfully attracted massive amounts of media attention by acting outrageously: People just couldn’t resist talking about it. The media has played along his whole life — even more so during the campaign. His shenanigans stole attention from Hillary Clinton in the weeks leading up to the election, and that was the last nail in her coffin. He had won the media war.

Trump Campaign Conclusion

These tactics all cater to the basic fundamentals of human psychology. The fundamentals are so powerful that they trumped reason and rationality in this election. Hillary’s campaign rationale — Who could vote for a person like him — fell on deaf ears and silent media channels. I’ll explain why, along with some insights on how these principles can apply to your brand positioning.

Election Polls and the Price of Being Wrong 

The thing about predictive analytics is that the quality of a prediction is eventually exposed — clearly cut as right or wrong. There are casually incorrect outcomes, like a weather report failing to accurately declare at what time the rain will start, and then there are total shockers, like the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-1-03-34-pmThe thing about predictive analytics is that the quality of a prediction is eventually exposed — clearly cut as right or wrong. There are casually incorrect outcomes, like a weather report failing to accurately declare the time it will start raining, and then there are total shockers, like the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

In my opinion, the biggest losers in this election cycle are pollsters, analysts, statisticians and, most of all, so-called pundits.

I am saying this from a concerned analyst’s point of view. We are talking about colossal and utter failure of prediction on every level here. Except for one or two publications, practically every source missed the mark by more than a mile — not just a couple points off here and there. Even the ones who achieved “guru” status by predicting the 2012 election outcome perfectly called for the wrong winner this time, boldly posting a confidence level of more than 70 percent just a few days before the election.

What Went Wrong? 

The losing party, pollsters and analysts must be in the middle of some deep soul-searching now. In all fairness, let’s keep in mind that no prediction can overcome serious sampling errors and data collection problems. Especially when we deal with sparsely populated areas, where the winner was decisively determined in the end, we must be really careful with the raw numbers of respondents, as errors easily get magnified by incomplete data.

Some of us saw that type of over- or under-projection when the Census Bureau cut the sampling size for budgetary reasons during the last survey cycle. For example, in a sparsely populated area, a few migrants from Asia may affect simple projections like “percent Asians” rather drastically. In large cities, conversely, the size of such errors are generally within more manageable ranges, thanks to large sample sizes.

Then there are human inconsistency elements that many pundits are talking about. Basically everyone got so sick of all of these survey calls about the election, many started to ignore them completely. I think pollsters must learn that at times, less is more. I don’t even live in a swing state, and I started to hang up on unknown callers long before Election Day. Can you imagine what the folks in swing states must have gone through?

Many are also claiming that respondents were not honest about how they were going to vote. But if that were the case, there are other techniques that surveyors and analysts could have used to project the answer based on “indirect” questions. Instead of simply asking “Whom are you voting for?”, how about asking what their major concerns were? Combined with modeling techniques, a few innocuous probing questions regarding specific issues — such as environment, gun control, immigration, foreign policy, entitlement programs, etc. — could have led us to much more accurate predictions, reducing the shock factor.

In the middle of all this, I’ve read that artificial intelligence without any human intervention predicted the election outcome correctly, by using abundant data coming out of social media. That means machines are already outperforming human analysts. It helps that machines have no opinions or feelings about the outcome one way or another.

Dystopian Future?

Maybe machine learning will start replacing human analysts and other decision-making professions sooner than expected. That means a disenfranchised population will grow even further, dipping into highly educated demographics. The future, regardless of politics, doesn’t look all that bright for the human collective, if that trend continues.

In the predictive business, there is a price to pay for being wrong. Maybe that is why in some countries, there are complete bans on posting poll numbers and result projections days — sometimes weeks — before the election. Sometimes observation and prediction change behaviors of human subjects, as anthropologists have been documenting for years.

Election 2016 Email: A Quick Look at Clinton vs. Trump

I vowed a few months ago that I wouldn’t write any more about the email (or direct mail) from this year’s presidential election. Maybe I should have written it down. On the email side, there are some interesting points that are worth mentioning, though.

I vowed a few months ago that I wouldn’t write any more about the email (or direct mail) from this year’s presidential election. Maybe I should have written it down.

PicardFaceIt’s been an ugly one, full of so much rage, fear, cynicism, and cruelty that I wasn’t sure there could be anything that could be learned from this big mess. Or that it would be worth my professional attention.

The Clinton and Trump fundraising direct mail, aside from the messaging, is pretty unsurprising when compared to the past several elections. No new tactics or formats. No surprises. Maybe it’s better that way.

On the email side, there are some interesting points that are worth mentioning, though.

In the Cards

Both of the two main campaigns place a lot of importance on offering a special “card” via email to their donors. And why not? This has been a direct mail tactic for a lot of years.

Like many memberships, a tangible thing may not have any monetary value. But it does make them feel better, like they are part of something greater than themselves, and can carry proof of that with them.

HRCWomanCardThis past spring, in response to Trump’s claim that “the woman’s card” was responsible for her primary success, the Clinton campaign issued a “Woman Card” to donors through its website. According to the email, supporters said “that they’d like a “woman card” of their very own — to display proudly on a fridge or pull out of their wallet.”

TrumpCardThis is the Trump Black Card, recently offered in exchange for a donation of $35. “You’ll be on a team that will be sending a message to Crooked Hillary to watch out, that we’re coming for her,” the email promises.

Common to both efforts? An appeal to exclusivity. And, both offers say that they’re for a limited time.

Donation Buttons

This is something I haven’t seen very often.

TrumpAsksIt came from a recent Trump message with campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson as the sender. Using multiple donation buttons in an email is a tactic that’s shown up in other Trump campaign emails as well.

The Fine Print

I often read the fine print on emails, so this really stood out to me.

HRCFineIt offers the donor a way to scale back the frequency of what shows up in their inbox, reminds them of the campaign’s social channels, and even shows a little humor.

So, that’s about all that I found interesting about both campaigns’ emails. I thought there would be more going on in this channel than I found. Maybe what’s most important to both campaigns is that these approaches are working well for them in firing up the “right” people and driving donations. We’ll see how much it mattered in less than a month.