donald trump

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I’m reading a book by Daniel Lubetzky, the social entrepreneur who started Kind Healthy Snacks. There is no arguing with his story, his business strategy (to create businesses that unite politically disparate people), or products. Therefore, there should be no arguing with is book. His ten principles for success are just fine.  One principle Mr. Lubetzky writes about, however, is “Transparency and Authenticity.”  I spend a good deal of time railing against these two words in this blog because for me they are the price of admission in branding. If you have to use them, you are playing defense not offense.

Then this morning I was reading a NYT piece about Donald Trump’s approach to deal making. Now I get all the fuss about “T and A.”  To be transparent and authentic one must basically tell the truth.  There should be no omission, no mis-direction. Just overt truths. Mr. Trump, who had built a global brand of some repute, does not practice transparency or authenticity. His mish mash of unstable declarations, retractions, air horn bullying and effusive staff “good doggies” makes it awfully hard to understand the man and his logic.

So I’ve come around on “T and A.”  The words are important in politics but not in branding, where these tenets are expected.  Let’s just spend our time and money supporting truths and nothing but the truths.   




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Brand strategy is a bit like plumbing.  The theory is nice but it’s the real pipes and engineering that carry the water.  I say this because when I read or see many people interviewed about branding they often answer with authority, but generically.  Sure brands need an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging. Sure they need visual and style directives. Of course, they need to promote values that help sell and satisfy. But the real business of branding can only be discussed in depth, with alacrity, when the strategy itself is known. 

To ask a so-called brand expert questions about branding or tactics, sans actual strategy, is like asking president Trump about policy. All you get is “wonderfuls” or “disasters.” You don’t get meaningful, actionable insight. To going back to the original plumbing metaphor, you get discussion about pipes, elbows, resin and leaks.  Brand experts, me included, need to dole out advice citing actual strategic examples. Not generics.



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“Democracy Dies in Darkness” is the new tagline of The Washington Post, now found under the masthead. It’s being lauded as a wonderful brand idea. I must agree. It’s poetic, memorable and few papers can wear it as can The Washington Post. Bravo.

Critics might say it’s a little generic. Not exclusive. But this isn’t the Amityville Record we’re talking about it’s one of the top two or so newspaper brands in the U.S.  One famous for breaking stories from the darkness.

When I think about the word democracy these days, the tweak toward president Trump that is this new tagline makes me wonder about the roots of the words democrat and republican. Is a republic different from a democracy?

The dictionary suggests a republic is “a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.” The latter part of the definition “chosen indirectly” by them, may set a republic apart from a democracy.

This tagline positions democracy a left leaning concept, then, which most people will agree is a foundational paper POV. As smart as the tagline is, I’d hope we don’t begin to politicize the word democracy as a blue concept.  Nice tagline. I hope it doesn’t create a hint of darkness on its own.




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The hardest part of quantifying the success of brand strategy (1 claim, 3 proof planks) is the act of tying measurement of “care-abouts” and “good-ats” (the proofs upon which brand value are built) to sales. I call this pursuit: Return On Strategy (ROS).

Back in the 90s while working on AT&T Business Communications Services, fighting off MCI (a smart competitors buying share with discount prices), we knew that messaging the right combination of “competitive price” (within 10% of MCI), “network reliability” and “innovative telecom tools” (the 3 planks) would result in added business users. If market perceptions of this trifecta were offset by MCI, they started winning new account “adds.” The trick was meting out the right combination of planks with our media budget.  We were using quantitative research to gauge attitudes and tie them to actions/sales.

This is the way one does ROS.  But numbers about attitudes can lie. Nate Cohn, The New York Times version of Nate Silver, mea culpa’ed today about Donald Trump. He spent a 1,000 words explaining why the numbers lied and Trump beat the odds.

I often write about “proof” in my blog posts. And about “deeds” — the actual activities that feed the care-about and good-ats. This line of thinking and study is where I need to spend more time. As was the case in Mr. Cohn’s explanation of Mr. Trump, attitudes and numbers can mislead. So I’m off to look beyond attitudes and on to awareness of deeds tied to sales. Should be interesting.





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When Donald Trump is on the radio pushing free CDs on becoming a millionaire, what are your first thoughts? The ads, which run on New York Sports radio, say to me The Donald thinks sports fans are idiots. It also tells me he must be in a little of a down cycle, money wise, because these ads and the business idea are pathetic. “What sets millionaires apart from the average person?” he intones, “You just have to want it more.” Jesus, who is going to fall for this crap?

Other get-rich-quick schemers hawking real estate courses or ponzi schemes are at least smart enough to make up names to sell this unconscionable crap to those at the bottom of the IQ food chain, but Donald Trump?   If he has a PR person, a handler, or a manager, that person should be fired.

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