Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is one thing: Consistent in his
personal brand. He has set his intentions, values, and beliefs and acts accordingly. In his years of business, this commitment to consistency gives his investors, business partners, customers, and employees a clear expectation of him.
Today, as Trump competes for the position of U.S. President, his brand is under attack. Critics on all sides of the political spectrum hail him as everything from an idiot and buffoon to an outspoken thought leader. Regardless of whether they agree with his views and ideas, audiences see him acting consistent with the persona they have grown to love or hate.
Recently, I was featured in the media for my views on Trump’s brand. Did I think his outspokenness would impact his business? Is he being intentional and strategic or careless and reckless? I think Trump is calculating and strategic and that none of his actions are out of character with his brand.
Personal Branding 101
A personal brand is an expectation of an experience. What will it be like to work with you? Do you behave in ways that are consistent with your values? Are you able to articulate what you believe in and stand for? Personal branding is the inclusive, whole sum of your reputation and actions.
Pillars of a successful personal brand are:
- Clarity of values and beliefs
- Consistent action tied to values
- Understanding of target audience and their needs/wants/goals
The Trump Personal Brand
Given the above, and putting politics aside (as hard as that might be), I believe Trump has remained true to his brand. While his political beliefs might evolve – as they do for most of us over our adult lives – he can tie his actions and message to his foundational set of beliefs around business, life, and now his political vision.
Here are some common characteristics of Trump’s personal brand building:
- He has strong opinions and stands behind them. He defends his position on issues, people, and situations, regardless of their popularity.
- He operates from a strategy that includes building his name and presence. Some call his actions “narcissistic,” others see him as a clever PR machine. Regardless of your opinion, he has inserted himself into controversy in a mechanical and intentional way.
- His moves are calculated and focused. I am not a believer that his actions and comments are random. Instead, as I stated in this news interview, I believe his outbursts, statements, and actions are calculated to elevate his brand and offer to those whose values align with him.
- He is tapping into trends and concerns of the audience he is targeting. In order to stand apart from his competitors (a key part of personal branding), Trump has hit on several nerves in the national conversation. He is conscious of the hot buttons Americans are feeling today and inserts himself in a way that is consistent with his boisterous and no-holds-barred style.
Years ago, I compared Trump’s personal brand strategy to that of Oprah’s. Consistency of message, relationship, and interaction helped his audiences develop a strong opinion of who he is, what he is passionate about, and how it will be to work with him. Love him or not, he is an example of a personal brand that appears authentic, sustainable, and believable.