Selling a Bad Idea

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.

William Galston in the Wall Street Journal

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.