Donald Trump: A Lesson in Personal Branding

President-elect Trump applied years of experience in personal branding to win the race the Whitehouse

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the media regarding donations to veterans foundations at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RTX2F0UL

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the media regarding donations to veterans foundations at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson – RTX2F0UL

In arguably one of the most controversial presidential races in recent history, business magnate Donald Trump secured the presidency, with seemingly zero political experience. “How can someone so under-qualified land the most powerful job in the world?” you ask? Personal branding; that’s how.

Americans just didn’t seem to connect with Clinton on the emotional level like they did with Trump, even if that emotion was hatred. Trump made expert use of all those years in the spotlight to utilize the power of personal branding. None of this was an act; the jibes, the insults the sometimes insane commentary on political matters. Every last word was all in building and cementing his persona as someone with the intention of making real adjustments in American politics. Once you get past the brash and lewd comments, underneath it all are some important lessons in personal branding that we can all learn from.

A brief introduction to personal branding

Whilst media coverage and writing about the topic may be relatively new, the notion of personal branding has been around forever. Essentially, personal branding is what differentiates you from the next man/woman, what sets you apart and what makes you unique as a human. It goes one step further though because to have an identifiable personal brand means you have worked to distribute your story within a niche. Like business branding, personal branding is the practice of marketing yourself. 

We now have a wealth of digital platforms we can make use of to define who we are in the online world. Your personal brand is an amalgamation of digital impressions revealed by an online search. What this means, is that everything you ever publish online, (photos, blogs and micro-content to social platforms) combines to develop your personal brand.

“But why work on building this, what’s in it for me?”. Building a recognizable personal brand opens up professional opportunities in your niche. It enables you to identify yourself as authentic & an expert in your chosen field. These keys to personal branding are exactly why the Trump campaign saw success where the Clinton administration failed.

Donald Trump & The Keys to Personal Branding

Whatever your opinion of Donald Trump, you cannot deny that the man is authentic and consistent; and this is what many people believe to have determined who won the race to the Whitehouse. Let’s delve into what lessons we can take from Trump…

Emotion Attracts Attention

People share when they care. That’s social media marketing 1o1 there. Trump’s ability to be in the spotlight whatever the current news story is arguably what made him so popular. If there was a celebrity story, a political scandal or even a sports story, you can be sure that Trump had something to say on the matter. Now it doesn’t matter how brash or inconsiderate that comment would be, his name was mentioned regardless and thus, his message spread. If you supported his idea, you shared the video, the tweet etc and if you despised every word he uttered, you did the same thing. All of his tweets, every supposedly damning interview, were all fueled by emotion . Match his method of speaking with the emotion among a large audience of Americans disillusioned with the current political system and you have his recipe for success.


One of the many tweets Trump posted sharing his opinions on celebrity gossip

So what’s the lesson? Talk about something people really care about, just be sure that you care about it too to be authentic. Don’t be afraid to blog & tweet about something you’re passionate about for fear of not satisfying everyone. Just remember to be a little bit more civil than Trump. Tell your story to connect with an audience on an emotional level and you’ll encourage people to share and engage with you.

The Power of Simplicity

“Make America great again” was the campaign slogan for Trump, what was Hilary’s again? Now being from outside America, it may be an unfair distinction to make, but the message her is that simplicity trumps complexity. The link to personal branding here is that followers of ‘The Donald’ were owners of the message too. He gave them something to share and like most of the language on his campaign trail, it was simplified to not create a parallel between himself and his audience. Like how people connect with emotion, they connect with simplicity too, purely because it’s so easy to connect with and understand.

The lesson here? K.I.S.S, keep it simple, stupid. In order to have a wide a reach as possible for your personal brand, be careful as to the language you use so that it’s easy to share and understand by a large audience.

Prove your Expertise

Being able to say you know what you’re talking about and actually knowing what you’re talking about are two very different things. Donald Trump has spent the best part of 3 decades building his personal brand; it’s arguably what’s helped him become a business success and a household name. From being in movies (see Home Alone) to TV appearances, writing books and having a unique and powerful social media presence, Trump has leveraged a variety of mediums to build his personal brand. Having done this, when he talks about applying business sense to politics, you can’t help but believe in his ability to do this given his business acumen. You have to be able to prove that you know what you’re talking about. How have you found success and put your expertise to use?

What’s the lesson here? Well, there’s two ideas; make use of cross-platform promotion and take action. How can your brand be about leadership or marketing if you have no experience in these? Build up your content and online profiles off of your real experience. Or if you’re starting out in this arena, create content around the journey of learning the niche. Similarly, make use of all platforms available to you. Have a great professional social media presence, then combine this with a consistent and authentic personal blog.


The fact that people gravitated toward Trump and his message of simplicity speaks volumes to the value of personal branding. The Clinton personal brand was difficult to connect with and she couldn’t compete with Trump, who reveled in his element of self-promotion. The key takeaways from his success? Be authentic. Be consistent. And give people something of value that they feel inclined to share.