4 Marketing Lessons From Trump’s Win — And Clinton’s Loss

Posted in Branding, Marketing, Strategy by David Oates

There’s been a lot of finger-pointing on both sides of the political aisle since Donald Trump became our President-Elect. But as a marketer, I’m more focused on one aspect that hasn’t received the attention it deserves - voter turnout.

By all accounts, there were close to 100 million registered voters that didn’t go to the polls. While some point to recent voter identification laws, this trend doesn’t account for all of them. In fact, it probably only accounts for a just few. The fact remains that Trump galvanized more constituents where it counted and gave them a reason to vote for them. Clinton, meanwhile, largely ignored Rural America, much to their apathy.

That would have been fine if the Democrats could have rallied more millennials, Hispanics, and women to turn out. But they didn’t, at least not in the numbers needed in the rust and farm belts. The result was a surprising electoral college win for Trump.

There are several lessons here; ones that transcend political party affiliations. So, as marketers, let us all take a deep breath and consider these four lessons:

1. Never Take A Market Segment For Granted

Long-standing customers won’t continue to be so if they don’t feel appreciated. Case in point — Hillary Clinton’s last visit to Wisconsin was in April, more than six months before the general election, when she was trying to fend-off a run at the Democratic nomination by Sen. Bernie Sanders. She also spent less time in Michigan and other states that could have gone blue. The thought was that those areas weren’t essential to the outcome. Turns out, that strategy was wrong and support for Clinton was muted as a result.

2. Give Them A Reason To "Buy"

'For many, the Trump rhetoric was viewed as “not presidential,” and, in many cases, as hateful vitriol. But his platform was, in fact, a platform. Clinton, on the other hand, continually played defense, refuting the Trump campaign, but muting discussions about their own plan in the process. It’s not enough to say “the other guy is bad.” You have to give a reason as to why you’re better.

3. Be Likable

This was a major problem for both candidates, and a key reason why turnout was lower than expected. Both Trump and Clinton had the lowest approval rating of any presidential candidates in modern time. No matter the industry, people will always buy from brands that they know, like, and trust. Work hard to endear yourself in a genuine, sincere and authentic manner.

4. Don’t Neglect The Infertile Ground

While I’m a firm believer in taking care of your core base, 100 million potential voters felt abandoned or ignored that could have been prime supporters for either Trump or Clinton. If either campaign had spent any time and resources to engage them, the story we told on November 9th, 2016 could have been much different.

There’s a lot for marketers to learn from the election if we take the time to put emotions aside and look at it objectively. Those that do will forge a successful path toward generating higher returns for the investments they make in attracting, converting, retaining, and engaging customers.

About David Oates

David Oates, APR, is Founder and President of Stalwart Communications, a Pay-On-Performance PR and Marketing Agency. He possesses 20 years of extensive experience directing marketing and public relations programs on a tactical and strategic level through a long and successful career that spans both agency, corporate and military environments. David is an accredited public relations expert affiliated with the Public Relations Society of America. He can be reached at
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