Trump – Example of Scaling Well?

Donald Trump and the Big Red Car here in the ATX — going to be another great day. On Earth as it is in Texas, y’all! [Haha, no Trump here.]

So, today, we turn ourselves to one Donald Trump as an exemplar of how a startup is able to grow and scale and deal with the issues of a startup enterprise. This is NOT a political commentary. It is about the startup business.

Trump, of course, is a businessman and has engaged in the Art of the Deal and the art of the spin off or side deal — Trump Vodka, Trump Steaks, Trump Breath Freshener, Trump Deodorant Footpads — you get the idea.

In fact, the Trump campaign is a spin off of his own massive ego, natural leadership ability, and hunger for power. That is NOT intended as a slight but rather a recitation of the truth without serving any homage to political correctness. As you well know, dear reader, Donald does not approve of political correctness, so we follow his lead here today.

What Gandhi said to Trump

Gandhi and Trump

Yeah, well, Donald Trump. OK. I don’t want to get involved here.

Gandhi, famously, said:

First they ignore you;
Then they laugh at you;
Then they fight you;
Then you win.

We are in the “win” phase of Donald Trump’s campaign as evidenced by his big blowout wins in the northeast, the strange alliance between his opponents, and his continuing strong polling in the remaining contests.

Earned media and Trump

You only have to say the words “earned media” and offer no other proof than you own lyin’ eyes, ears, and brain to define the magnitude of a win that Donald Trump has fashioned by using the very forces that lust for his failure — the media, the punditry, the cable outlets, the legacy stations, the newspapers, the magazines, the blogosphere — to his advantage.

[The GOPe is not included because they are not effective messagers. They will be discussed a bit later.]

If I were to look at a media outlet and not see sixteen new stories on Donald Trump, I would quickly check to see if we had suffered an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse).

The guy has not only written the next chapter on the subject, he has written the entire Library of Congress. It is truly amazing.

For startups, this is a very good lesson. He has done this for free. Free. Free. Free.

Next month, Megyn Kelly (she who went to his office to beg for the assignment, prodded by Roger Ailes, no doubt) will kiss his ring — perhaps other parts of his anatomy — and interview him on his terms. Ratings are real and she has to have an interview to drive her ratings.

Thus is the power of earned media.

Overcoming the opposition

Trump has triumphed in the face of very strong opposition. Folks should catalog his opponents, the unlikeliness of his winning, and the passionate nature of his opposition as an exemplar of what a startup CEO faces when trying to disrupt an established order or industry.

Nobody ever said disruption was going to be either easy or pretty.

Trump beat Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio — should we add in Ted Cruz and John Kasich or should we play along?

Wow, that’s a lot of political talent. Eight governors. Four Senators. A Fortune 50 CEO and a brain surgeon.

How many years of experience do those guys have? How many for Donald Trump?

His toughest opponent may actually be the GOPe — the Republican Establishment — who picked, dressed, slimmed down, powdered, and funded their boy: JEB BUSH. Boy, did he get a lesson.

Trump Jeb Bush pic

What the Hell just happened? I got beaten like a rented mule by who? Donald Trump? Who is that? Doesn’t he know I’m a BUSH? It’s MY turn. Call my brother and my Dad. I need a nap.

Trump made bitch slapping the Bush Dynasty look like a day at Trump Parque (his Parisian amusement park).

Part and parcel of the GOPe movement is the #neverTrump bunch who don’t really champion a candidate, they would gladly back a Shih Tzu as long as it was not named Donald Trump. It is very difficult to win if your candidate is an idea or a ghost. Very difficult, indeed.

Messaging — Making America Great Again

There is a handcrafted nature to Trump’s messaging whether it is his call to action, Make America Great Again, or his nicknaming of his opponents (Lyin’ Ted, Corrupt Hillary).

Trump -- Make America Great Again

“We’re young. We’re hip. We’re diverse. We’re with Trump cause we want America to be GREAT again, y’all. Make America Great Again!

His command of Twitter (not the midnight Tweets) and social media, in general, has made his every utterance newsworthy further expanding the scope of his earned media footprint.

The Big Red Car has as much faith in Make America Great Again as he had in Hope & Change. Of course, that Hope & Change mantra worked pretty well for someone, no?

This is all being driven by the startup CEO himself, Donald Trump.

Trump, Tapping into the market

On a modestly serious note, Donald Trump was, and perhaps “is,” the only politician this time around who learned the lesson of the 2014 elections.

The electorate in 2014 was and is ANGRY. Angry. Angry. Angry.

The President dismissed this but in the process dismissed the greatest reversal of political fortune in a century wherein the Republicans gained the Senate, strengthened their hold of the House, swept Governorships and State Houses into their corral and generally administered a barbed wire enema.

How the Republicans squandered this advantage is not germane to our exploration of Donald Trump’s startup learnings so we shall stop right there.

Donald Trump figured out the market better, faster than his opponents. Threw a saddle on it and is riding it into the sunset. [The White House, hopes he.]

The ability to take a hit and to persevere

Donald Trump’s campaign, like any startup, has made a few mistakes along the way. Haha. Big Red Car, really?

In spite of those missteps, he has driven on and none of them have derailed his efforts — though every pundit worthy of the name has said at least fifty times: “This is the one that kills him.” Remember when they used to say that?

Go back and look at the Gandhi quote. They were laughing at him. Remember that?

Lucky Trump

A startup CEO has to be lucky. The Boss used to say that soldiers like lieutenants (platoon leaders) and captains (company commanders) who are lucky. Luck is a fungible when it needs to be. It can be lifesaving.

Freakin’ Donald Trump is lucky. Lucky. Lucky. Lucky. Lucky.

He is lucky that the GOPe and the nominating process is so damn corrupt at a time that the American voter is fed up with being ignored and taken for granted. This is the source of the anger. Trump was part of that system and now throws back the curtain and exposes the corrupt system that he was a participant in. Only a reformed sinner really knows the power and pleasure of sin.


OK, so there you have it, dear reader. The startup nature of the Trump campaign. Not really intended to be political but to be a thoughful insight for a CEO to see how she might learn from the lessons that are available to her.

Trump and Melania with baby

Think of America as that little baby. That little baby in Donald Trump’s hands. Getting ready to be nursed back to GREATNESS? Oh, wow, where did that come from, y’all?

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. [I cannot vote. Damn it. Well, maybe if I were dead, I could vote Democrat?] Be kind to yourself, CEOs. You have a very tough job but, hey, you CAN do it.cropped-LTFD-illust_300.png



8 thoughts on “Trump – Example of Scaling Well?

  1. Saw this last fall. Since then have paid attention to Trump more for lessons for publicity for my startup than for the politics.

    So, some lessons:

    (1) Raise hell to get attention. Nearly any attention is better than no attention.

    (2) Unless get into deep trouble with, say, the FDA or SEC, don’t worry much about the critics. If want to reply, borrow from, say, violinist Heifetz who said about music critics, “The words without the music.”, that is, cut down the credibility of the critics .

    Some people will take the critics seriously, and some won’t. If half of the people ignore the critics, then all that attention reaches, with at least some benefit, half the potential market. Get the rest later.

    (3) Don’t require your audience to think very hard. Instead, do at least outline for them the intended conclusion.

    (4) Outline your competitors in very clear terms before they outline themselves or you.

    (5) The media piles on: At first, nearly all the media was really nasty to Trump. Now that he is about to win the nomination, much of the media and many others want to be with the winner and are starting to be nice to Trump. Now nearly everyone in the media is at least a lot nicer. And, beyond nice, they are respecting Trump. So, the media can pile on negatively and later positively.

    (6) Never admit an error. Talk around it, change the subject, return to main themes, etc.

    (7) When the media asks a question, don’t feel much obligation to respond directly to the question asked and, instead, mostly just answer with own standard themes and sometimes just answer the question you wish you had been asked.

    (8) For what you have to say, repeat. Repeat over and over. It’s nearly impossible to repeat too often. E.g., Trump has hardly changed his rally speeches in months, yet in LA he got about 31,000 people to show up and listen. Nearly all of those 31,000 needed just to go to YouTube and get lots of very similar Trump speeches, yet still they showed up. Besides, some polls in Oregon showed some people who still have yet hardly even to have heard of Trump.

    (9) If going for a mass audience, keep the message and the product/service, at least as seen by the customers/users, simple, dirt simple, childishly simple. E.g., Trump’s rally speeches use fourth grade vocabulary and short sentences or even just broken sentences.

    (10) If something is unfair, then speak out about it; don’t just suffer quietly with high dignity. Find a theme and fit the unfairness in the theme and repeat over and over the theme. E.g., the delegate selection process is wide open to bribery. So, make the theme ‘A rigged system’, and repeat that over and over.

    (11) When say things, immediately also explicitly rule out the more obvious critical distortions and misinterpretations. I.e., realize that the competitors, enemies, critics, etc. will strain to find distortions, etc. E.g., whenever Trump says that he is going to stop the trade imbalance with Mexico, right away he says he likes the Mexican people and admires their leaders but that our leaders are the fools. So, tough for the critics to say that Trump hates Mexico.

    (12) Warn the audience that there is no time for being politically correct, and then take advantage of the increased opportunity to speak more frankly, with more energy and determination.

    (13) Realize that mostly the main effect of the communications is emotional, not rational. So, obvious energy and conviction can be more effective than just rationality. But, when have some really good data, e.g., loss of 60% of manufacturing jobs since 1990, just state it and do mention the source. So, rationality can be a good, intermediate step, but the main, final effect, if any, will have to be mostly emotional.

    There are more lessons. These are just ones off the top of my head. I’ve been keeping copies of articles and URLs to return to when my startup needs publicity. Also the Trump lessons are likely useful for a CEO to get the team working effectively.

  2. BTW it is great to see Carl Icahn endorsing DJT!!!!

    On Apple —“You worry a little bit — and maybe more than a little — about China’s attitude,” Icahn said, later adding that China’s government could “come in and make it very difficult for Apple to sell there… you can do pretty much what you want there.”

    He added, though, that if China “was basically steadied,” he would buy back into Apple

  3. Political marketing, Penetrating the Coke, Pepsi equation

    OK BRC Trump is doing well and as someone who is not a fan of the economic stuff that exists his mouth I have been looking at this in a pure product market penetration framework.

    You can look at a two choice market (R or D) as an upside down bell curve with brand zealots on the outside quintiles, these are the folks that will choice the brand at any price or not buy.

    As you move down the curves to the center of the dip, brand loyalty falls off. The moves by each lead candidate to the outside quintiles has steepened the curve and increased the crowd in the bottom of the curve. I would imagine based on the increases nationally of unaffiliated voters over any party that cliff is steep, the center is over 35% of the market now add 5-10% laggards not yet changing affiliation that available potential market is up to 60% that will make a new choice. A change from the past paradigm where the 15% in the middle that could be persuaded and would vote was the target. Voting practices have enabled a larger churn group through extended voting and Mail in balloting.

    This movable 60% crowd is what is called the angry voter by the media. The one side angry as a result of the broken brand promise of the last 8 years crying for more in hopes of success to change the lie and the other side just ticked about working hard for the last 8 yrs and only getting a nothing burger! Open primaries help this crowd make last minute choices based on emotion. Yes DJT did well Tuesday in closed primaries but he received 60% of the GOP votes in those states that represent less than 10% of the potential vote in the general. Small undefined sample.

    Trump in his rants has given each side of that equation new promise they have not heard. One side gets the voice already packing the burger with meat the other side gets to add the lettuce, Tomato and Bacon but does not have to dress for dinner.

    Donald presents not New Coke or Pepsi free but Dr. Pepper, the same way Virgin (insert product line) has done repeatedly. Grabbing the middle of the curve and rebuilding a less drastic curve for the 2cd and 4th quintiles.

    Your points on earned media are spot on, he has it mastered and Twitter is has been the perfect medium, 140 Characters allows innuendo, humor, message testing without expectation of quality or accountability of any brand promise. He is also the only spicy beverage in this market place so the 24 hour news cycle is drinking all the Dr. Pepper it can!

    The question is will New Coke voters (conservatives) or any Pepsi Free Voters (Liberals) drink his Dr. Pepper when the burger hits the table? Or will they choose not to choose or worse yet just go with the party practice. My guess is most will vote party, the brand loyalist will swallow hard and the emerging enthusiast will hit the Bourbon on a Costa Rican Beach with Jimmy Buffett.

    • .
      Agree with everything you say until you get to the bourbon.

      Trump will bring out a ton of voters who have not voted or are new voters.

      The Boss is the Precinct Chair of his Precinct and an Election Judge. Saw it up close and personal.

      The Texas, ATX, turnout for the Republicans was huge. Huge. Not a big news item because Cruz performed as expected.

      Trump will bring more folks to the party and they will be drinking Trump & Coke.

      Cause, it’s Trump Time somewhere.


      • That odd people often don’t start agreeing with me until the Bourbon starts flowing!

        I hope you are right, he is the better of the two leaders now. Just would like to enjoy pulling the lever like I did years back rather than a Sucks less choice

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