Friday, May 13, 2011

Donald Trump Branding Lessons for Authors

After President Obama felt obliged to release his long form birth certificate to silence the right wing “birther movement,” most recently championed by Donald Trump, my wife said to me :  “Trump’s going to lose some fans over this won’t he?”

I think he got more fans from it. For Trump, he’s made a living off of his name.  He’s a brand.  His brand’s image:  Be famous, for anything.  He used to be known as a real estate developer and then casino owner.  Then he delved into reality television and anything else he can get paid to slap his name on, including books, tea, golf resorts, etc.

It doesn’t matter if you agree with Trump’s political shenanigans, and let me just say that I don’t, but you have to admire one man’s ability way past his prime to still get all of this free publicity.  He used an old issue –the supposed controversy over whether President Obama was born in the United States – to get himself interviewed by major news media for several weeks. He really used it, not to sway the public on this particular issue, but to get millions of dollars of free exposure for Celebrity Apprentice and for the continued, non-stop marketing of the Trump brand name.

He’s as famous for bad hair, hot trophy wives, and numerous bankruptcies as he is for being a savvy businessman, but his image and name endures because there’s something about him many aspire to be.  He exudes success.  He gives off a confident, powerful persona. He may at times be an actor, but he gets us to buy in.  Even when he’s filing for divorce or another business venture goes under, we believe in him.  We hear that magnetic voice, see his grin of determination, and a spark of vision in his eyes. He looks like what we expect a billionaire to be – and we secretly hope to be him. He’s got charisma and he’s willing to be playful, hosting Saturday Night Live, getting roasted on Comedy Central, and participating in entertainment as often as he seems to lead board meetings.

Here’s what Trump does that all authors seeking to promote themselves need to do:
  • Always be where the cameras are – he loves to have a snappy comment on news of the day.
  • Talk about things beyond your domain – when’s the last time he discussed real estate?  He talks about the Mets being up for sale, politics, and anything else.
  • Act like you’re an authority and people come to see you that way.
  • Dress for the job.
  • Pick a side – don’t just comment in a wishy-washy way on something - love it or hate it!
  • Expand your area of expertise and build up multiple brands – there is business Trump, there is entertainment Trump, and political Trump.
  • Surround yourself with images of glamour; Trump got into casinos, Miss America Pageant and celebrity reality TV.
While the recent birth certificate campaign orchestrated by Trump shows us, there seemingly is no limit to how far one can use free media to build their brand, the real lesson we should take from this is that you don’t have to be the biggest, the best, the largest, the richest, or the smartest to garner book publicity.  Just ask Trump. 

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