Ironically, breaking all the rules can sometimes get you way ahead. We all remember those kids who did things differently … dressed to represent themselves instead of the latest trends, took the nerdy classes, or engaged in other behavior that exponentially lowered their cool score. More often than not, these were the same kids who went on to become thought leaders in their fields, and pretty much out-achieved the “cool “ kids at the game of life.
Nothing seems to have changed; especially when it comes to this year’s GOP primary race, at least for now. Breaking all the rules seems to have landed Donald Trump around 39 percent of the predicted GOP vote in key states during the week of Sept. 14, the biggest percentage ever earned by a candidate in any primary race in history, says CNN. Amazingly, this same week, a New York Times/CBS News poll showed Trump with the lowest rating for honesty and trustworthiness among the top six key candidates from either party.
So if no one trusts him, why does he have so many supporters? Historically, there might not be many explanations; psychologically, there are plenty. Here’s just a few.
Freedom to Be Politically Incorrect
For years, people have been shamed for intolerance of any kind. With jobs, reputations, political futures and even Facebook friends on the line, many people have feared expressing their true beliefs and opinions. So Trump is doing it for them. Expressing attitudes, opinions and insults society labels politically incorrect and thus giving others permission to do the same is just one aspect of Trump’s brilliant strategy that is defying all odds, all expectations and every political pundit’s imagination.
People seek to be part of a hive that thinks and feels like they do, and Trump’s followers are no exception. Just days before the second GOP debate, Trump drew a crowd of 20,000 in Dallas that cheered and clapped at nearly every breath he took. His position of feeling “just like you do,” seems to be securing a base of people whose so-called “wrong” feelings are suddenly being made “right.”
Real Winners vs. Phony Losers
While we might root for the underdog in a sports game, when it comes to our values, lifestyle, community and ability to control our destiny, we align with winners. Quite often in politics, we do so without even knowing what the current winner stands for and how he or she will really impact our lives. And we align even more with winners who we believe are real, “just like us” and transparent.
Here, Trump again is brilliant. The entire hour I watched of his Sept. 14 speech had two main themes: He is a real person with no canned persona or teleprompter speech, and he is winning the race. Unprovoked, he told how much money he makes and how much he pays in taxes. He showed he was real and had nothing to hide. But most importantly, he raged on about his place in the polls. I am winning here, there and everywhere was and still is his recurrent theme, and voters seem to be buying this line more than any position on any issue.
Winning the Attention Game
Trump has mastered the ability to get his name in headlines — a lot of them. Insulting any opponent who gets a headline seems to be furthering his strategy quite well. Google “Trump insults Fiorina” and see what I mean. The media and his victims support that strategy quite well by reporting and responding, both of which give him more headlines than even he would pay for. And I, too, fell for it, as I couldn’t resist writing about the psychological marketing tactics he uses quite well.
Regardless of what you think of Trump, his persona or his politics, there’s a lot we can learn from how he has risen from an “unlikely” status to the GOP contender who has succeeded more than any other politician this early in a presidential campaign, regardless of party.
Takeaways from Trump include:
- Validate your customers’ feelings, not yours, and show them you are just like them when it comes to fears, hopes and values. This works in politics and in business. I helped a client change his rosy sales pitch for real estate investment to one of caution in order to validate how prospective investors felt. Once we got their trust by talking about their feelings and not ours, we got their business.
- Be real and be transparent. Share your revenues, your profits, and contributions to causes and political campaigns. Open your books and hide nothing. Customers will forgive you for a mistake you apologize for but never for hiding a truth or a lie you crafted.
- Brag up your victories, humbly, and let the world know you are winning at all that matters to them. Show customers and prospects that you are winning the game for customer satisfaction, loyalty, industry reviews, quality and more. Use customers and industry experts to help validate your successes.
- Finally, create headlines beyond your website and social media pages. Do something others will write about, be it the media or customers. Take on a local cause, take a stand on a social issue and support it, highlight your exceptional talent, or do what Coca-Cola does on its coca-cola.com/happiness site and just share tips on living a happy life. To be newsworthy, keep it real and valuable to others, not just your brand.
In short, brands that learn to appeal to consumers’ psychological needs, show they stand for the same values customers do, and find ways to be top-of-mind for not just great quality but for supporting great causes, will win much more than 39 percent of customers’ loyalty, and gain far longer-lasting results.