Controversy Sells

In a connected age, there’s a strategy proven to capture attention and get people talking.

“I have no intention of running for president.”

That’s what Donald Trump said in Time Magazine back in 1987.

Now, a controversial statement.

But that’s not such a bad thing.

The Trump University opened in 2005.

Much of the students that enrolled would do so initially via a series of free seminars and webinars. By definition, it wasn’t a University.

Set up to teach real-estate secrets, students would pay as much as $35,000 to join.

Yet, they wouldn’t even get a glimpse of Trump – he had nothing to do with the scheme.

Alongside the university, the Trump Institute opened which also had nothing to do with him.

It contained dubious material (notice a pattern?) that was packaged and sold off the back of his time on the American Apprentice TV show.

He simply licenced his name to position himself and make more money. To put his name out there.

More recently, on the run-up to the election, and probably using much of the same material, he released his book: Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again.

Using donor campaign money, he spent upwards of $55,000 buying this book back – then profiting from the sales.

These instances are part of a string of dubious occurrences that have been happening since the 1970s.

Controversial marketing, and therefore unorthodox marketing – what Trump is doing, doesn’t happen by chance.

It follows four key ingredients: intelligence, surprise, relationships, and propaganda.

Many of the stories discussed on this blog over the years like The Blair Witch Project and Half.com are great examples.

Where a different type of promotion worked seriously well even if it didn’t appeal to everyone.

A style adopted by many small and cult brands. Guerrilla brands.

Which may not be bullet proof. But that’s okay.

If it’s how we want our brands to be perceived – if we’ve already established who our customers are – so be it. We don’t need to be relevant to those outside our target market.

To do it successfully is to affect people on an emotional level.

And to do that you need to create an argument where people can absolutely agree or disagree with something.

And to do that you can either target people’s beliefs and philosophies, people’s actions and behaviours, or people’s feeling of belonging.

Trump knew that his policies and radical ideas would appeal to some Americans.

In the states where it really mattered.

The last year of social media has consisted of pretty much just Donald Trump.

The inauguration of Trump as US President generated 15 million engagements.

Engagement peaked when Barak Obama and his wife met Donald Trump and his wife.

A moment famous for Michelle Obama’s awkward reaction towards whatever was inside the Tiffany box given to her as a gift.

To me, that just confirms what he’s all about.

He creates a stir. He gets people talking. His name has taken on a life of its own because of it.

In 1987, Trump’s estimated worth was believed to be $1 billion.

Now he’s the most powerful man in the world.

So it shows that controversy does sell.

Because you can’t get away from it. You don’t even want to.

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