Love him or hate him, Donald Trump’s recent political campaign is filled with lessons startups can learn to help grow their businesses and drive PR.
Know your audience and cater solely to them
Donald Trump is not afraid to be controversial. Whether he is talking about building a wall to keep illegal immigrants out of the country, banning Muslims, or bombing everyone who disagrees with his policy, Mr. Trump will undoubtedly ruffle a few feathers.
However, he is completely aware of that and embraces it. Not only does this controversy earn him endless free media coverage (nearly $2 billion worth so far according to data from the Smart Media Group), but he is also catering to a specific audience that craves representation. He does not try to appeal to every American voter; it just isn’t possible. But, rather than trying to kind of agree with every position, he is willing to upset a few voters in order to completely win over a specific group.
Ashley Madison is an organization meant for individuals who are already in relationships to meet each other and date. Their slogan is, “Life’s short, have an affair.” Encouraging and facilitating affairs is an extremely controversial business platform, and yet this company is able to succeed by turning into the skid and embracing what they are. They do not hide behind innuendo or try to be like every other dating site, they clearly announce their service is for people looking to have an affair, making the destination of every individual looking to have an affair crystal clear.
Know what your company is and embrace it, even its apparent flaws
The stereotype of the lying and scheming politician dies at Donald Trump. He will say anything and everything he thinks, often as soon as he thinks it, without any regard for how it will appear to the public. He will take the backlash at it comes to him, but no one can deny that he fully believes everything he says. And even if what he says is a bit concerning, the honesty is a welcome change.
He may be misogynistic and xenophobic, but isn’t a man who is openly misogynistic and xenophobic just a little bit better than a man who might be, but pretends not to be? The voters know exactly who Donald Trump is and what he represents.
Tinder is a dating app in which users “swipe” left or right on their phones to indicate whether or not they are interested in a person based on a few pictures and a very brief bio. If two users both swipe right for each other, they are given the chance to chat. Shallow? Yes. Successful? Yes. It is the shallow nature of the site that gives it success. It is completely acceptable to never talk to someone because of his or her physical appearance. Once chatting, one can say they are looking for a relationship, casual sex, friendship…anything. If that is not what the other is looking for, the conversation ends. Honest and effective.
Stay consistent so consumers know exactly what to expect
Have you ever tuned in to a Donald Trump debate or speech just to hear something unbelievable on live television? I know I have. I didn’t need to wonder, “Will Donald Trump say something that will be a news headline tomorrow?” I just knew he would, because he does every time. Whether it is a racist or sexist remark, a fight in the crowd, or a threat to bomb someone, something crazy will happen when a group of people gathers in front of Donald Trump with a microphone.
The Something Store embraces this same kind of consistent unpredictability. Customers will pay $10 to this startup, which would then send “something” in return. This something could be anything. The only guarantee is that the something is worth at least $10 and legal to sell in the United States. Other than that…all bets are off. Why would people pay when they don’t know what they’re getting? They pay because they do know. They know they are getting something, and pay for the mystery and anticipation.
Create an identity or mission that people can believe in, no matter how you hope to achieve it
What American doesn’t want to “Make America Great Again”? Even if someone disagrees with every political view Donald Trump has, he or she will still agree with his ultimate goal to make America great. It is a simple goal that inspires hope and anyone can get behind it, no matter what else they disagree with. Voters who are divided on the issues and policy Trump discusses can come together in hopes of achieving a common goal: To Make America Great Again.
The recent controversy over Apple’s noncompliance with the FBI to unlock the phone of a mass shooter exemplifies companies’ use of positive ends to justify controversial means. The FBI recovered the phone of a mass shooter and looked to gain more information on the shooter and anyone or group affiliated with the killings. Afraid of erasing all of the data by entering an incorrect passcode too many times, the FBI looked to Apple to bypass this security measure. They refused, stating that,
“The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals.”
Although people may not agree with not cooperating with the FBI in a criminal investigation, Apple users were also happy to know that their privacy is an important issue that Apple is willing to protect no matter what, saving the company from losing business during the controversy.
What lessons do you think Trump can teach startups? Better yet, what are your thoughts on how a potential Trump presidency would impact the industry? We’d love to hear from you!