The speech failed not because the president lacks rhetorical skills, but because most Americans reject Mr. Trump’s arguments. Just 43% said that the wall would make us safer, while 55% said it wouldn’t. Only 43% thought the wall would be an effective way of protecting the border. Even fewer—40%—thought it was essential for that purpose, and 59% said it would be a poor use of taxpayer dollars.
Emphasis added by me. I have a lot of thoughts — unsurprisingly — about Donald Trump’s constant veneration as a “marketing” or “branding” genius by people who have no experience in marketing, or often in business at all. Trump is shameless, and has a lot of very loud, obvious personality traits that Americans (unfortunately) aspire to have. Those traits are also attached to significant, inherited financial resources that he’s had his entire life.
None of that has anything to do with good “marketing” or “branding”, because both of those things are done well, they are able to withstand some level of critical analysis and scrutiny. Trump’s claims about himself, policy, the state of the nation, or why things are the way they are never hold up to any scrutiny at all.
Basically — and I’ve worked with and for a lot of people who don’t agree with this — if you build a brand that people love and believe until they actually require you to deliver on it, at which point your brand falls apart completely, you haven’t built a good brand. You’ve built a convincing lie, which is a lot less valuable than you might think. Trump is learning that now, as his “master dealmaker” brand is falling apart in front of our eyes in the most obvious possible scenario where such a master dealmaker would be incredibly useful. The only people who agree with him are people who agree with him on everything, and it’s not because they think he’s a genius, it’s because they hate the same people he claims to hate.
This isn’t a strategy for running a business, and it’s definitely not “marketing”. It’s a strategy for squeezing a couple extra bucks out of a racket before it collapses on itself.
A couple years ago, I used the inevitable decline of Tumblr to shift away from the very popular, 2008-ish link blog style I had used here for years. At the time, my thinking was that I wanted to focus on writing longer-form things I put a lot of effort and thinking into, instead of just grabbing things that caught my attention and hastily putting together my two cents.
Unfortunately, while I wrote some more thoughtful things that I really liked, I also decided to add two little kids and a very demanding job. The result — weirdly enough — was that I had more time for quick little observations about things, and less time to sit down and put together something thoughtful (never mind edited). With a site structured around long-form content, that meant what I was able post was increasingly long-winded, sporadic, and not really what I wanted to make.
(I’m not kidding — a lot the posts from the last two years came together on a Sunday morning at a coffee shop with me flipping through various half-written things, squishing them together, and posting the results. If you’ve read this site for a long time, it’s probably noticeable.)
So with that, just a quick note that I’m firing up my time machine and taking the site back to the 2008 linkblog era.
A lot of people I know, and have learned to enjoy reading, have given up on the personal site format and moved their shorter thoughts to social networks, Medium, etc. — and I say the hell with that. Self-hosted WordPress continues to get more and more awesome (it has blocks now!), Twitter continues to get dumber, and I like building things. So here we go.
Of course, I still have little kids and a job, so we’ll see what kind of writing capacity a 36-year old version of the 25-year old who started this site is like. But it’s just so much easier to find things, write things, and post things (provided they aren’t too big) nowadays, and I’m going to give it a shot.
There’s a stronger parallel to be drawn here, too. After the grunge explosion and the birth of so-called “alternative rock” brought on by Nirvana’s emergence in the early 90s, the rest of the decade’s mainstream rock airwaves were plagued by increasingly same-y sounding “post-grunge” acts that sanded down the depressive bile of their forebears until it sounded smooth, frictionless, and utterly corporate. Purely for analogous purposes, let’s say that M83 is Nirvana (wait, don’t go!), and the Chainsmokers are, for shits and giggles, Vertical Horizon—so far removed from the source material that the resemblance is barely there, but once you become aware of it, the soullessness it represents is impossible to shake.
If Operation Ivy is Sears, or some other classic department store, then Blink-182 is CostCo, and the fat guy in this clip is your typical pop-punk band today. Yeah, in theory he’s emulating CostCo, but it’s been so long since that meant anything, he’s really just going through the motions, sort of hoping that by standing there and saying CostCo-related things that he’s successfully honoring his influences. “Welcome to CostCo” is basically “Defend Pop Punk“.
I actually feel better this also happens to genres of music I’m not interested in.