The Psychology Behind The Trump Effect On Marketing

The Psychology Behind The Trump Effect On Marketing
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By Cathy Lennox and Sarah Fitzharding, Co-Owners, Galileo Research and Strategy

Few can argue that Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency of the United States, and his impact on the role of commander-in-chief, has had a profound effect on the entire country, even the world. While a portion of the U.S. population is galvanized by what they see as a straight-shooting populist who’s returning strength and pride in being American, another segment fears the fallout of his presidency in the form of scandal, possible nuclear war, and environmental disaster. The common effect on both sides is a deep emotional response to a presidency like the country has never seen.

Why is this so out of the ordinary? A lot has to do Trump’s style and approach – engaging with people more on a personal and human level rather than as a statesman. Not only are his opinions on the issues delivered in an unprecedented and unconventional way, but also his use of Twitter, and his almost casual style of governing. It all translates to the public connecting with him daily (for better or for worse) on a much more personal, emotional level.

In such an emotionally charged time the Trump era has ushered in, marketers must tread carefully. Through our market research work, Galileo Research has uncovered key insights brands should heed, regardless of ad category.

  • Gender sensitivity. If the huge women’s march that followed Trump’s inauguration is any indication, female citizens appear to be as galvanized as since the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s. Some of this has been spurred by a growing sense of lack of respect towards women (felt by both supporters and non-supporters of the President). In our survey, lack of respect toward women was the fourth-highest concern about Trump’s presidency, with 65 percent of survey respondents reporting they were somewhat or very concerned he “doesn’t show respect to women.” Just as women are feeling galvanized into action, male Trump supporters are also being galvanized, with 30% agreeing that they “[h]ave enjoyed reasserting my masculinity” in the time since the election. This new celebration of masculinity is driven by supporters of the President seeing him as a tough, manly, all-American hero, in a similar light to John Wayne. This heightened state of gender sensitivity, and concern among many about respect for women, means it is more important than ever before for marketers to filter every part of their business through the lens of gender relations. They need to recognize that while Americans are divided in terms of favoring or rejecting a return to more traditional gender values, they are aligned in concern about lack of respect towards women.
  • Reunification. No, we’re not talking about Germany. The deeply divided electorate has left a lot of citizens feeling like there are two Americas. And in 2017, the divide is not just between red states and blue states – it’s far more personal and insidious, within communities and between friends and families. A quarter of Americans feel they don’t belong in their local communities anymore. Friends and families feel they can’t have honest conversations, feeling that their political views have put a wedge between them.
  • 63% of Americans agree that “Trump has created a divided America”
  • 40% say they “can no longer have open and honest conversations with some friends or family members – we have to stick to superficial chat”
  • 94% of Americans strongly care about America uniting and coming together – it also is one of the few current events-related topics that Americans feel are appropriate for brands to talk about in communications.
  • There is a huge marketing opportunity, especially for businesses with retail spaces and customer events, to create events that bring local communities back together. These should be declared politics-free safe spaces, where customers can leave political views at the door, to refocus on the shared family and community values that Americans feel are currently under attack.
  • Millennials are the most impacted demographic right now. They are the most ashamed, most scared and feel the most disconnected from family and friends – and they also feel the greatest increase in social responsibility. More than two out of five Millennials agree that they “[h]ave become more of a social activist” since the election vs. just 19% of Boomers. They are likely to value brands that share their commitment to social improvement and facilitate their ability to engage in active social responsibility. For marketers trying to reach millennials (and most are), tying their message to a call to action through community service stands to resonate more deeply.
  • News is a double-edged sword. Though the news cycle couldn’t be any more robust these days, there’s a deep rift and resulting distrust of so-called “fake news”, which should give marketers pause about advertising in the medium. Americans are feeling more skeptical about news media, and potentially about other official information sources. Just as Americans are placing more trust on news filtered through trustworthy personal contacts on social media, it is likely that they will be placing more value on objective sources, personal stories and word of mouth reviews, for purchase decisions. Marketers also need to pay careful attention to placement of their ad in news or news related media, as the high emotional engagement with news content (be it positive or negative), is highly likely to be impacting emotional engagement with brands and advertising.

These are perilous times, brought on by clashing ideologies and tactics to get the United States back on track. Brands need to tread cautiously lest they run into any of the numerous pitfalls of consumer opinion – and powerful social tools at consumers’ disposal to respond to perceived slights. And if you doubt that, just look at the tool the president is using to register his feelings and opinions.

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