Today, Americans will observe a distinguishing trait of our government: smooth transfer of power. Donald J. Trump will become just the 45th person to hold the position of President of the United States. Our country has been on a wild ride the past year-and-a-half. Candidates and viewpoints deeply divided us, a division quantified at the polls. In the end, Trump won out. Looking back, it was more about his brand than platform that put him in the oval office.
Politics is left to other forums and people to discuss. But, as Donald Trump becomes President Trump today it is worth taking a look at a key to his movement: a brand tagline.
“Make America Great Again”
For all of the talk of building walls, draining swamps, and securing jobs, four words energized Donald Trump’s campaign for President: Make America Great Again. These words resonated with millions of Americans who felt America had lost an edge. A brand is more than a tagline, of course. However, a tagline aids in brand recall and serves as a thumbnail to explain a brand’s meaning or value. In the case of Donald Trump, his brand makeup in terms of political experience lagged behind most of the other candidates, both Republican and Democrat. Trump’s campaign masked that deficiency by creating a brand promise that attracted voters to him.
How did “Make America Great Again” compare to brand taglines of Trump’s competition? An article from the Washington Post early in the 2016 campaign season critiqued several candidates’ slogans. Here are three:
Ted Cruz: “Reigniting the Promise of America”
Mike Huckabee: “From Hope to Higher Ground”
Marco Rubio: “A New American Century”.
Trump’s slogan differed from these messages in that it conjured images that voters could imagine. In contrast, many people might struggle with explaining a “New American Century.” A tagline must be more than a clever combination of words and phrases.
Why a Brand Tagline is Important
Donald Trump’s unconventional presidential campaign offers a case study in the importance of a brand tagline. “Make America Great Again” did not get him elected by itself, but the tagline played a role in Trump’s victory. How did it play a role? “Make America Great Again” met three criteria for a brand tagline:
- Aids in brand awareness. Donald Trump had high brand awareness in terms of his personal brand. His campaign tagline took awareness to the next level by building awareness for why he wanted to be President.
- Differentiates from competition. Branding practices in general serve to set apart a seller from competing offerings. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” message stood out in a sea of unremarkable slogans associated with his opponents’ campaigns.
- Relates to pain points of the target market. Ultimately, a brand exists in the minds and hearts of the marketplace. An underlying question we mull over any time we are presented with an offer is “what’s in it for me?” A brand promise encapsulated in a tagline must be about the benefit of the brand for the target market.
Branding is important because it is unrealistic to expect customers to know everything about you. You want them to latch on to salient characteristics and benefits you possess. A tagline has the power to do just that, even for complex buying decisions like which candidate to support for President of the United States.
Another characteristic of branding is once strategy is set, a brand must follow through on promises made. Time will tell if the Trump administration can back up the promise to Make America Great Again. The ability to bring brand promises to life that sets apart great brands from the pack.
The inspiration for writing this post did not come from the events of today as much as what Trump said earlier this week. In an interview, Trump dropped hints of his 2020 campaign tagline: “Keep America Great.” Will Trump fulfill the promise of Make America Great Again to the point that Keep America Great would resonate with voters? Stay tuned.