August 9, 2016

What politics in Switzerland can learn from Trump’s campaign to become America’s next president

Trump’s “Trollitics”

Most of the media doesn’t understand Trump’s strategy and usually gets trapped in a 20th century moral posture that forbids seeing the man’s great tactical skills. Because his authoritarian branding and discourse feel so extreme, looking beyond the misogyny, xenophobia and racism may not only easily feel disgusting but also a waste of time. Then how is he winning so much? What is the trick here? Why does he resonate with so many Americans?

A Trump analysis

Trump’s genius is to focus on what matters and what matters at the right time. He started his campaign as an outsider facing 17 different opponents. Intelligently, he handled them one by one, focusing on each challenge at a time playing different versions of the anti-establishment self-sponsored, self-made man.

Another genius aspect of Trump’s campaign is his ability to get free media exposure, thanks to all the people he carefully and precisely offends on a daily basis. The amount of calculated outrage generated by Trump is so gigantic that he’s managed to become the number one selling product for all the media. To a point, they have all become hooked on “Trump News” like junkies. When Trumps hurts you, he’s doing it on purpose so that you play his huge media machine game − the algorithms game − where trending content gets promoted to the top of news feeds.

Trump has also shown a very clever use of language, able to reduce his opponents to a single ‘linguistic kill shot’ (as Scott Adams likes to call it), such as “Low energy Jeb”, “Little Marco” or “Lying Ted”. And in the age of memes, that’s exactly how to cut through the mass. His ability to use double-binding questions, to embrace his opponents critics or even his ability to use social proof and appeal to authority − all of this points to a master of rhetoric, language and strategy.

Think of the wall, this big beautiful wall that Donald Trump has managed to plant in your head by letting you imagine it. But he never showed you anything. Think about the symbolic power of this image in millions of people’s minds − so much more efficient than a campaign or any visuals.

Why would Trump focus on a voter segment when they’re not voting? Such as the Latinos in the GOP primaries: Trump knows this, so maybe he loses a tiny minority of Republican Mexican voters when he calls them rapists, yet he wins a huge proportion of white conservative Americans thanks to a global gift-scandal offered for free by his opponents − again.

Another example: the political cost of questioning the 9/11 report is extremely low − admittedly, Dick Cheney criticised him for doing so − but this still gets him immediate worldwide support from most conspiracy freaks such as the very famous and controversial Alex Jones who also happens to have 1.4 million YouTube channel subscribers. Again, it’s all about strategy.

So, what’s coming next? Trump is just starting to adjust his strategy to go after Hillary. But one thing is for sure, it will require much more than moral posture or political expertise to fight this mean meme media machine, which speaks at a symbolic level.

Three important things that outperforming politicians teach us

You can’t do everything through communication

What is exceptional in Trump’s campaign is how he decided not to use every communication channel available. Trump doesn’t lose time in advertising. No perfect posters with detailed content and a visual concept behind it. He focusses on a digital access path to gain support.

Select your strengths

If you want to do politics, you have to choose your strengths wisely. It’s not about a list of measures that you complete in a huge number of campaign meetings. Politics is about concentrating on your key assets. Trump masters the digital arena with a simple website about his campaign which invites you to join. Let’s:

“Make America great again!”

Together. He combines his website with a huge amount of Facebook fans and engages with them greatly. He concentrates on Facebook as a tool for having an exchange with his supporters and uses Twitter as a war room to criticize and tear his opponents and critics apart.

Break the rules

Trump doesn’t really define a ‘how’ as other politicians do. There are no speeches about how he would solve the problems he points out. But he always tells us why we should vote for him. There is no long explanation about what he would do as President of the United States. It’s just the story of a better America again and how his opponents are more like the America that already exists. Trump’s branding isn’t like marketing theory, which shows us how it should be. Sometimes bad can be better.

Trump is not the only successful

“Whoever understands political communication well is able to react to his opponents. Knowing one’s own communication potential helps to efficiently determine a political strategy with high quality.” (Politics Report)

Another politician with strong communication qualities is Bernie Sanders. His focus is on clear branding. There are no forbidden questions and no big promises for a possible future as America’s president. A down-to-earth person who is thoughtful in his communication. The best way to go for the USA is to go together as one.

Full potential in politics: existing method – new field

Full Potential is a tool that was originally created to analyze the image and the communication measures of companies, their markets and their brand. A political party can be as much a brand as a production company and therefore can be analyzed as such. The appearance of a party/candidate can also be segregated into the analyzed criteria of the Full Potential analysis: branding, advertising and digital platforms. Political parties, institutions and candidates can also benefit from an outside look at their communication activities. In our Full Potential Politics Report, we analyzed different political campaigns in Germany and in the ongoing presidential election in the United States of America. Find out more about how political campaigns use their communication potential in our report.

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