3 Branding Lessons to Learn from Donald Trump

Oh yeah, I’m going there.

I don’t usually talk politics on here, but after following the election news recently, I just couldn’t hold back. In the last couple of weeks, Donald Trump has gotten a huge (and disproportionate) amount of attention from pretty much every major media network. He’s gone from an outspoken millionaire and property mogul to a political candidate that some of the electorate is taking quite seriously. The key to this? His unique personal brand has allowed him to break from the election norm and stand out among the candidates. Here are the top 3 takeaways from watching how he’s done this.
Full disclosure: I think the man’s beliefs/politics are perfectly crazypants and would never in a million years vote for him. Just so we’re clear.

3 Branding Lessons to Learn from Donald Trump –– Lindsay Goldner Creative

1. Know Your Targets

Much to the dismay of the Republican party leadership, Donald Trump has become their numero uno guy for comments that are sexist, classist, racist, and just about every other negative -ist out there. To them, it’s a PR nightmare (and rightly so.) But what Trump is doing is actually spot-on from a personal branding standpoint: he’s tailoring his speeches to say exactly what a lot of people want to be hearing. Although I personally disagree with everything he says, he’s gaining popularity because, to his supporters, he’s the only candidate being honest and upfront. Since his earlier days in the public eye on the Apprentice, Trump has always played the part of the business-savvy but tactless “tell it like it is” guy, and he’s playing that up in his campaigning to appeal to his target demographic. I’m not about to recommend that you go out ranting against women or Mexicans (please don’t do that!) but what you should learn from this is the importance of tailoring your voice to those people you want to work with and who can eventually be huge cheerleaders for your brand.


2. Get Clear on Your Core Beliefs

This goes hand-in-hand with the way Trump panders to his audience. He leverages his unapologetic and unfiltered persona to share his core beliefs: he knows what he believes in and he wants everyone else to know it too. Every brand should have a set of core beliefs, whether it’s Amazon’s value of embracing failure or Toms’ belief in always giving back, having a set of core brand beliefs/values is key to being consistent and creating a solid brand and business. Donald Trump, similarly, has talked about his own core beliefs and his goal to “make America great again,” and leverages those core beliefs to try to find common ground with his audience and make himself seem more relatable.


3. Tread Carefully

The key problem (and maybe the biggest personal branding lesson to be learned here) is that Trump has taken the ideas of marketing to your target demographic and embracing core values to an extreme. As a result, he’s created an interesting situation for himself: he’s getting plenty of press and voter support, but he’s also damaging his once business-minded brand and turning it into a political one that has turned off many of those who previously thought of him as only a businessman. As a brand, it’s key to know who you’re targeting and being crystal clear on your values, but when you take it to an extreme as Trump has, negative consequences (in his case, losing multiple sponsors and business deals) are almost guaranteed to occur. So while he’s doing extremely well in the polls, and his new personal brand is working for him politically, he’s seeing some economic fallout. In sum? Know who you’re talking to and what you stand for, but be aware of people’s reactions to you, and be conscious of that if your messages may be seen as extreme or polarizing!


What do you think? Has he damaged his brand beyond repair? Would you ever embrace this kind of “no holds barred, give no fucks” attitude? Do you think he’s simply gotten to the point, business-wise, where he can afford to do this with his brand? Lots to think about. And I bet you didn’t think there were branding lessons to be learned from the man with the worst combover in America.

This is Crucial.

It’s almost election day. Even if you’re apathetic about the ridiculous amount of ballot measures going on in CA (or whatever state you’re in), the Presidential election is hugely important, and EVERY VOTE COUNTS. Especially with what’s going on in Ohio and Florida, I can’t stress that enough. So my message to you….is get the hell out and vote. And double check your ballots before submitting them!

Also, some important resources below the graphic, especially pertaining to those effected by Sandy.


If you need information on finding your polling place, go HERE (nonpartisan link). For a more lighthearted way to find your polling place, go here (nsfw but still accurate).

If you see voter intimidation going on at your polling place — which some groups are already reportedly set out to do (ugh)– you can report it by calling 1-800-253-39 or by emailing voting.section@usdoj.gov.

If you or someone you know has been impacted by Sandy, here is a guide to getting information on how they can still vote. SUPER important- their polling places may have changed, and they can find out information via text, email, or fax (fax?!).

And seriously, just vote. A lot of men and women have died to give you this privilege…so take advantage of it and make it count, yeah?

Urban Antisemite Outfitters

Cultural insensitivity, coming your way Spring 2012, courtesy of Urban Outfitters.

urban outfitters anti-semitism shirt

urban outfitters anti-semitic shirt

Though, I guess we can’t expect too much sensitivity from a company whose cofounder/chair (also cofounder/chair of Anthropologie and Free People, y’all) gave over $13k to Rick Santorum in the past? Or a company who’s sold things like this.


Why I’m Boycotting ColourLovers

So much for a quiet rainy day. A little bit ago, I stumbled upon this gem on Twitter.

Normally, I’d probably just shake my head at the ignorance and move on instead of engaging in a flamewar. But then, I remembered this:

See that part about “Creative Director at Colourlovers”? Whomp. Whomp.

Colourlovers is a site where I used to go for color palette inspiration, to look at color trends, and fab software- I bought their Seamless Studio program and their ColorSchemer program for work. If you use twitter, you might even use Themeleon (which I did until today), to customize a patterned background for your profile.

So when I saw that Shaun, their Creative Director, had tweeted this, I felt pretty strongly about telling both him and ColourLovers that I wouldn’t be using the site any more. My feelings on the matter are this: if I am AWARE of a company’s politics/policies (this includes beliefs advertised by the companies’ higher-ups, like Moynihan, in my opinion)- and I disagree vehemently with them, I’m going to do everything in my power to avoid giving that company more money. For example, I think that Dov Charney, CEO of American Apparel, is a skeezy mcskeezerson. As a result, I don’t buy anything from AA. Easy.

Here are the screenshots of my initial response to Shaun, and the resulting tweets:


So here’s my take on the whole thing:

1) If you say in your social media profiles that you hold x,y,z position at Company A, you’re acting as a representative of that company. While your comments might not accurately reflect the company’s beliefs, by virtue of adding your job title to part of your biography, you– the employee/ceo/creative director– actively bring the company into the matter.

2) Social media is out there for EVERYONE to see. When you tweet something as divisive as a statement asking how women who’ve had abortions can live with themselves… that’s out there… and saved by the Library of Congress, in case you were wondering. Obviously in this case, Shaun knew exactly what he was doing when he sent that tweet.

Combine these two things, and you have the potential for a “perfect social media storm.” Much like the case of The Bloggess and the epic PR fail, Shaun was speaking as himself, but as a representative of ColourLovers. Because of that, I’ve blocked Shaun (and his nasty supporter) and will not be going to the ColourLovers site any time soon. I’ve also changed my background– no more themeleon– and, sadly, will be looking for alternatives to their programs.

Really, politics aside, it’s a matter of businesses — and their employees– on social media, and what happens as a result of associating yourself with a brand (or aligning your brand with various viewpoints). You have a right to your opinions. I have a right to mine. But I also have the right to choose not to patronize your business, visit your website, or buy your products, if I come across things that your business says/does that I disagree with so strongly.

So peace out, CL & crew. From now on, I’ll be sticking to Design-Seeds (who’s got a FAB redesign, btw) for color inspiration, and I’m working on a custom Twitter background tonight. Definitely would love to hear your sources for color palette and pattern inspiration too! If anyone is interested in your own branded backgrounds or developing a better alternative to themeleon? Let me know- I’d be down. Most importantly though, is if you’re going to say stuff that’s judgmental (yes, the way he phrased that DEFINITELY was) and divisive? Be prepared for the fallout. Especially on social media.

Edit: This is the response I got from the creator of Colourlovers; he also commented below. Thoughts?

EDIT P2: for the record, I’ve since gone back to using Colourlovers. Shaun no longer works there — for whatever reason — and I feel that I can support the company again as they/their employees aren’t espousing hateful beliefs. That’s really what it came down to. Darius was also fabulous in addressing and diffusing the situation quickly, so kudos on really rocking the social media customer service.  To those of you sending me nastygrams about how dare I suppress their freedom of speech by disagreeing and boycotting– where were you when people were boycotting Starbucks for being pro-gay rights? Or Modern Family for having untraditional and (gasp!) a gay couple adopting a child? Something tells me you were probably on the forefront of those up in arms about that. People — and companies– can have their beliefs all they want. That doesn’t mean I’m going to spend my hard-earned money there. Period.



Get insider access, exclusive resources and fab tips + tricks from yours truly.

Keep an eye out for some inbox love soon!

Pin It on Pinterest