Let us assume that Donald J. Trump actually has a strategy for his presidential candidacy. Some may argue that I give him too much credit, but let’s go with that assumption anyway.
The past history of Trump would indicate that he has morphed his business strategy into a single strategy which is branding. Trump is a brand, this is how he makes money now. His brand has a value which his organization pegs at around 3.3 Billion USD. While that valuation may be somewhat inflated, the success of the Trump brand comes through it’s licensing to businesses that are willing to pay a hefty fee for it’s use on their enterprises.
Considering that there is no investment required (by Trump) in the infrastructure of the investment, it is all about the brand and hence it has real value to the Trump organization as an engine of revenue generation. Furthermore, revenue provided by licensing and management fees is a lot more attractive than having to build or own a property and face all the attendant risks. Hence, the branding business model (compared to ownership) is relatively risk free. Trump learned this lesson well in the bankruptcies of his casinos.
So what builds a brand? Publicity and perceived reputation would be two obvious candidates.
Trump often references his best-selling book “The Art of the Deal” (ghost-written by Tony Schwartz) as evidence of his business acumen. Schwartz has admitted in recent months that the book is pretty much a fiction, he regrets writing it, and now donates all of the royalties he receives from the book to charity to assuage his guilt for his part in spawning the Trump myth.
Does a presidential candidacy advance a brand?
Certainly the publicity is almost unbounded. The perception of competence is a continuation of the myth created by his book and his relentless self-promotion.
For Trump, a good strategy would be to promise the sun, the moon, and the stars, stir up pre-existing angst among the electorate and then present oneself as savior.
Any casual observer of the Trump candidacy might well conclude that it has been primarily about maximizing publicity, whether good or bad. There is an old public relation saying that goes like this: “There is no such thing as bad publicity“. Trump has completely embraced that tenet, through his unfiltered and combative verbiage.
There is a corollary to this strategy: You have to lose the election! The “win” is about marketing, not about the election, since it is virtually impossible to live up to the hyperbolic promises that are being made.
Corollary part two: You lose, but it’s not your fault because the “system” is stacked against you, or “rigged” as Donald Trump likes to say.
What the Republican party has not figured out, is that Trump could care less about them, since he has never been about anything other than self-promotion. It would be comical to see Republican leaders lining up to kiss his ring, if it were not such a tragedy for their party and their country.
The same is true of the electorate he claims to champion. He could care less about anybody but himself and his brand. The misdirected admiration of his followers serves to further the Trump myth of competence and continues to build his brand.
How will this end?
Trump will lose and it will devastate his party, but his brand valuation will soar.
Once again, he will be the winner.