Start-up (Or Meltdown) Of A US President
Brand Trump and brand America are headed for either a classic cultural clash or a surprising cultural fusion and evolution
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The presidential inauguration celebrations are increasingly being overshadowed by the scathing protests on the streets, as an embittered and divided nation picks up the pieces of what many see as an electoral holocaust. Rather than delivering a message of healing and unification at the inauguration, Trump chose to belittle his predecessors and opponents. This was an inflammatory political speech, unbecoming of a newly anointed leader of the most powerful nation in the world.
If Donald Trump was to view himself as a ‘start-up’ playing a new Presidential innings, branding logic would have dictated that he quickly goes about dropping anchor into the hearts and minds of his customers. However, his definition of customers now needs to be broadened beyond those who voted for him, well beyond the so-called red states.
Trump’s stance - “I don’t care a **** what anyone thinks, I’ve made it on my own, so take that” — is typical of the man. He is now ready to do battle with the press, which has vilified him throughout the campaign because now he can get his own back. If the winning formula for brands is about generating recall and likeability, Trump on the other hand, is willing to risk being disliked to show him up as the fearless hero who can hold his own for delivering on the country’s economic prosperity. Trump’s business background provided the disenchanted a new platform of optimism. Naturally, the message “Let’s Make America Great Again” had to be packaged as disruption.
In transformation programmes, the leader identifies core group loyalists, supporters, fence-sitters and the cynical detractors. Successfully wooing the fence-sitters, rather than the more stoic cynics, usually helps tip the scales in the cascading of a movement.
Starting with the media, Trump seems to have labelled a vocal section of the urban intelligentsia as the cynics who he must disregard or pulverise, counting on white middle America as his support base. The fence-sitters would wait and watch, rather than react to Trump’s vitriolic utterances. If the results are favourable, they will begin to ‘melt’ on to the side of their new leader, and spread the good word.
Brand Trump may even be pardoned for his histrionics but his actions must speak louder than words. But there will be sterner tests ahead for this start-up. Most importantly, the test of culture.
No strategy can truly be successful in the long run unless it results in forming a sustainable culture. Such a system will only work on steroids and not permeate into an empowering and self-sustaining way of living and working. Trump must find ways for his disruption strategy to ultimately become ‘win-win’ for all. For this to happen, he needs to market a freshly enunciated vision document, beyond his election manifesto, and paint a larger picture which broader sections of people can buy into.
Delivering messages of divisiveness, insularity and non-secular xenophobia may push America into a corner that not only will the world despise, soon so will his own internal support base. But if Trump can act and build a vibrant, connected economy, education and employment for its people, in a democratic and free-spirited framework, the desired transformation will happen with the least amount of drag. Most importantly, Trump’s messaging must give this journey some positive lubrication.
Brand Trump and brand America are headed for either a classic cultural clash or a surprising cultural fusion and evolution. This is a start-up to watch.
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