What Can Business Owners Learn From 2016’s Brand Winners & Losers

By Dr. John Tantillo, - In Marketing

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Political brands dominated this year’s marketplace. Twitter and event marketing tactics utilized by the winner, Donald Trump, got him elected and changed politics as we know it.

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Here is the lesson for the savvy entrepreneur and small business owner—always be branding (ABB). This means responding to the current needs/wants of your target marketing then satisfying their needs with services (ideas) that they asked for and then continually evaluating the market conditions—what they want (NOW) so that one can modify strategy accordingly.

The 2016 brand winners and losers included below are both political and non-political. They have uniquely responded to this year’s dynamic market forces and provide a valuable blueprint for helping us understand how best to “Go Brand Yourself” in the current business environment that we find ourselves ensnared. Without further ado, here are Tantillo’s Brand Winners/Losers for 2016.

2016 Brand Winner

1. Donald Trump

Trump won this election cycle because he received the most Electoral College votes period. End of story.  He achieved this daunting feat, by implementing three key marketing strategies. First, he utilized an Electoral College Market Segmentation strategy, by choosing select groups within each demographic necessary for winning in each state.

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Second, he used Twitter and Event Marketing to engage/grow his Target Market and then put into play his secret weapon—satisfying the needs of his Target Market with a message which spoke to his voters.

How? By exploiting Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which centers on voter’s Basic Needs rather than more Psychological and Self-fulfillment ones that his opponent offered. Trump knew that speaking to one’s need for security and safety always takes precedent over esteem and self- actualization, no matter how guilty one feels by those who believe otherwise.

It is simple: the new politics will now move, (thanks to Mr. Trump), from an “issues model” to a “needs paradigm.” The lesson—marketing is NOT about you; rather it is all about your customer (voter) and what they want from your brand.  Trump understood this and won.

2. The Republican Party

The Grand Old Party was positioned by many at the start of their Convention as the party in chaos which would be destroyed by Brand Trump.

What a difference a few months make. Today, the Republican brand is alive and well thriving across the country. They achieved this by understanding the importance of their individual brands (Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McConnell) rather than relying on their corporate brand to get them over the finish line.

Reince Priebus, the party head, understood this dynamic all too well and through his adroit interpersonal and persuasive skills was able to keep everyone on the same page with the “Make America Great Again!” needs-message and win the Washington trifecta—The White House, The Senate and the House.

Not too bad for a party where rumors of its demise were greatly exaggerated. Individual party brands that appealed to the needs of their voters was the secret to their success and what we can learn from the Republicans. Oh yes, never forget your customer’s (voter) needs is another.

3. Arnold Schwarzenegger

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This year has been a good one for the former California Governor. He landed the title role in Trump’s Apprentice, has everyone guessing what his line will be when he informs apprentices that he or she must leave, and has landed a role in the latest version of the Predator franchise scheduled for a March 2018 release according to the film’s producer.

Arnold, not only understands promotion, he gets marketing too. This means that he knows his brand, and exploits it by giving his customers (fans) what they want. It is great to see how this unique brand has grown and responded to the vicissitudes of life. There is something for everyone to learn from Mr. S. And I am sure that he will be back!

4. Star Wars-Rogue One

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With a current worldwide gross of $615,934,691, 55.3% ($340,634,691) coming from US ticket sales, in only 12 days, this movie is a brand expert’s dream come true.

The Rotten Tomatoes score of an 85% favorable ratings amongst critics, and 89% with fans stating they “liked it” cements its longevity for weeks and perhaps months to come. The producers clearly understood the basic marketing tenet—satisfy your customer’s needs and are reaping the benefits thanks to their branding intelligence.

5. McDonald’s

Have you been to McDonald’s lately? If you have, you know that they are back. And for good reason. The understand value, fast food and a product that satisfies the hunger need.

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With its all-day breakfast, their new fresh rather than frozen burgers in some locations, and their healthy choice meal alternatives to calm the “food police,” are all encouraging signs for this grand brand.

You may not like all of what they offer, but one must admit that they do try to implement the marketing concept, which means satisfying the needs of their customers. Just ask my grandson, Donovan who loves his chicken nuggets happy meal.

2016 Brand Losers

1. Hillary Clinton

In politics, like business underestimating one’s competition can fatal. Just ask DHL, who never saw Federal Express coming when they competed with the behemoth in the 1970s.

Enter Hillary Clinton, the first female running for President, the most experienced politician to run for office since George H. W. Bush, and the savviest professional deal maker to enter the race since Bill Clinton.

So what happened and where did it go wrong. First, they believed that their message was on the side of the angels. They forgot about blue collar workers and were more concerned about ideology rather than the needs of their base. Second, Team Clinton used old tactics and didn’t respond to the changes that were presented to them at warp speed. And finally, their hubris, that we are the best and there was no way that we could lose.

Always be branding (ABB) could have helped but maybe not. The old marketing adage that you can have the best dog food in the world with all the right ingredients, but if the dog doesn’t like the dog food, you don’t have a product, may apply.

It could be that Hillary did not satisfy the needs of the key Electoral College segments to put her over the top to win the election. As marketing observers, knowing what your customers want and giving them a reason for making that purchase are keys to success as well as achieving market share. This is a hard lesson for one to learn especially when working so hard to win.

2. Democratic Party

Unlike the Republication Party, the Democratic Party Convention was the epitome of a grand production meant for a future President of the United States.

True, there were some residual bad feelings as a result of a heated nomination process, but the Democrats had a real predictable grand candidate who was a pro that the voters would have to choose—to do otherwise was simply not an option. And this is where the Democrats went wrong—not considering how voters felt.

It was rather about what they believed about their nominee. They simply knew better, a mistake that has caused many a marketing expert to regret later.

The takeaway— it’s not about you, it’s rather all about your customer (voter) and satisfying their needs. If only they understood this basic marketing principal, another result could have been seen.

When the Democratic Party decides that they want to win in the future, they must consider the “Needs Model” rather than the issues one. Asking voters what they want and then giving it to them is key.  And never ever provide them with what you think they want. This will result in losing market share, whether you are in politics or business.

3. Old Political Tactics—The Ground Game

Whether you like him or not, Donald Trump has changed politics. Trump’s organization could not compete with the Clinton Campaign’s use of voter calling, canvassing, and volunteers. Trump, however, utilized state of the art more efficient methods and redefined the ground game as we know it.

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His Digital Marketing team identified his target market, tracked their behavior and got them to the polls by mere excitement, enthusiasm, and personal commitment. It was a different type of ground game that got the Trump voters out with a novel digital approach, that the Clinton Campaign didn’t see coming.

In today’s dynamic marketplace, one must always be exploring as well as testing new techniques so that you will win the market share game. Always be branding (ABB) could never be more relevant in the heat of battle or when one is engaging in marketing activity.

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 7

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After 35 reported incidents of overheating smartphones worldwide, Samsung recalled every Galaxy Note 7 Smartphones sold. To be fair, Samsung’s quick response is commendable.

However, this manufacturing error no matter how statistically, small causes serious harm to the brand. The lesson here is for every corporate culture to allow problems with product design to be discussed openly so that customer’s needs and safety issues are always met.

A post hoc analysis of just went wrong is needed to restore brand integrity to Samsung’s customers to prevent this mishap from ever happening again.

5. Michael Moore

The progressive “Roger and Me,” filmmaker and author who predicted that Donald Trump would win the 2016 presidential election is now trying to stop Trump’s agenda with his 5-point guide for Americans.

The problem with this tactic is not listening to his people—blue collars workers. These workers were profiled in his “Roger and Me” documentary where he tried to confront, the then GM president Roger Moore why GM was leaving Flint Michigan and turning his back on the residents of this fair City.

The problem here again is Moore not recognizing that it’s not about him. It’s really about his customers—blue collar workers who need a voice that Moore can provide. Mr. Moore doesn’t understand the marketing concept, which emphasizes customer needs.

Trump knows his voters and is committed to helping them. This is what Trump ran on, and if he fails to deliver, he will not be re-elected.

Moore is a brand loser for not looking at this from his customer’s point of view but rather than using the issues model which will be eventually replaced. Time will tell whether Moore is correct but for now is certainly worthy of the brand loser moniker for 2016.

Branding Editor

Branding and Marketing Expert, Speaker, and teacher who writes about branding