November 29, 2016

By Gonzalo López Martí - Creative director, etc /

  • “In the future, marketing will be like sex: only losers will pay for it.”
  • The line is not mine.
  • It was coined by the great adman Jon Bond.
  • It is a bit vulgar, yes.
  • To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Bond is not a vulgar person, quite the opposite indeed.
  • The line just happens to cleverly use vulgarity for eloquence and effect.
  • Speaking of winners, losers, sex, vulgarity, eloquence & effect.
  • Enter the Trump era.
  • Here’s a septuagenarian reality TV star and faux billionaire who, armed with a twitter account, an outsize borderline deranged yet incombustible personality, a negligible budget, a meandering message and little else, outcampaigned, outmaneuvered and defeated the Clinton clan: an electoral steamroller with the largest staff and the deepest pockets America and the world has ever seen.
  • Aided by a sitting presidential couple with a fairly solid popularity rating who threw their entire weight behind them to salvage their legacy from being erased from history.
  • With the services of venerated award-winning agencies such as Droga5 and Goodby Silverstein.
  • With brilliant campaign ideas, beautifully crafted and executed with the utmost production values.
  • How could the soon-to-be POTUS defeat such a formidable opponent?
  • For one thing, deliberately or not, he once again demonstrated that high concept advertising doesn’t do the trick in politics.
  • Political ads for some reason work better when they are low brow, ugly and mired in horrible production values.
  • And I’ll quote myself with a line I use a lot when I’m hired to do political campaigns: the difference between political and commercial marketing is that, in the former case, the product talks.
  • Donald Trump, regardless of what you think of his ideology or his intellect, is an earned media genius.
  • He is the very embodiment of the notion that all publicity is good publicity.
  • He lives and dies by the idea that “it doesn’t matter what they say about you as long as they spell your name right”.
  • He ran a chaotic “back-of-a-napkin” campaign and defeated an opponent who outspent him, according to some estimates, by more than three to one.
  • Armed with a direct response slogan and what seemed like a defective teleprompter.
  • And forget about his message.
  • There was no “message” there.
  • His message was a rambling litany of platitudes, vitriol and wishful thinking.
  • He threw so much spaghetti to the wall that ultimately people heard what they wanted to hear.
  • Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
  • In short, he got lucky.
  • Fortune favors the bold.
  • He was he in the right place at the right time.
  • The message was the medium, the bombast, the unhinged body language, the contorted gesticulation, the omnipresence.
  • To his credit, he made himself available all the time.
  • His secret sauce was his omnipresence.
  • The sheer genius of our new crotch grabber in chief is that he religiously and obsessively applied the Gore Vidal mantra: never miss a chance to have sex or appear on TV.
  • Against a closely guarded, possibly paranoid opponent who rarely gave press conferences, overanalyzed everything and never went off script.
  • The paradox of Trump’s knack for earned media, however, is that it landed him the Oval Office, yes, but, oddly enough though, it didn’t seem to work when he applied it to his multiple failed business ventures.
  • Namely Trump vodka, Trump steaks, Trump university, Trump airlines, Trump mineral water, the Trump board game, Trump casinos, etc etc etc.
  • Why was the Trump brand so successful in the political arena and so prone to bombing in the product & service front?
  • Cuz, not unlike consuming pornography, voting is something one does in secret and with the utmost privacy.
  • An awful lot of folks do not want to openly admit they are spending their hard earned money buying Trump products yet, as opinion polls clearly showed, they happily approve of his brand when they can hide it from other people’s judgmental eyes.
  • In any case, can we find a similar case of earned media brilliance on the commercial side of the spectrum?
  • To be continued.


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