In this episode of Uprising!!!by Scott Goodson, we interview Barbara Lippert about the Donald Trump movement. She has been covering brands, advertising, and media for more than 30 years. Her speciality is interpreting brands. She is legendary and if you Google her you will find that she has written, blogged and spoken about everything from Super Bowl ads to major marketing strategies. She is obsessed about the thinking behind brands. Scott Goodson asks Barbara about the success of Donald Trump, the brand, and how he spread his movement across America in this election year. For more ideas on Uprising and movements, cultural movements and movement marketing,
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Uprising Interview transcript
Announcer: Welcome, to Uprising.
Each episode looks inside what it takes to lead the most dynamic and successful cultural movements. Some of them in the business world, some in the social realm. Some in politics, and some in between. To see why people start uprisings. What gives those initiatives the momentum, and keeps them going? And most important, what lessons can you learn from these movements, and how to apply them to your business, and even personal life? Let’s explore the secret to sparking movements that move people into action.
Man Voice 1: Passionate ideas.
Woman Voice 1: Controversial ideas.
Man Voice 1: Uprising ideas.
Woman Voice 1: The power is now in the hands of anyone.
Man Voice 2: To start a cultural movement.
Man Voice 1: Your movement.
All Three Voices: To move the world.
Scott: Hello, I am Scott Goodson. Donald Trump made a decision to do something that is almost as old as the United States of America. He began the quest to become the President. It has been a campaign unlike anything we’ve seen before. He psyched out his opponents. He’s outwitted the GOP. He’s ignited a massive movement of followers across the country that continues to gain steam, feeding off fears and insecurities. At last reckoning, he seems unstoppable. Donald Trump. Love him, hate him. What can we learn from him?
Barbara: My name is Barbara Lippert. I have been covering advertising and brands and media for more than thirty years. My specialty is interpreting brands.
Scott: Okay Barbara, thank you for joining us. Some people call her an extremely wise commentator in marketing and advertising. She has written, blogged, and spoken about marketing for many years. She is legendary. If you Google Barbara Lippert, you can find extraordinary reviews and biting critiques about everything from marketing strategies to advertising campaigns to Super Bowl spots. She is obsessed about the thinking behind brands. I asked Barbara about the success of Donald Trump, the brand, and how he spread his movement across America. Okay, so how does Donald do it? I’m Scott Goodson, and you’re listening to Uprising.
Barbara: It’s horribly scary, and he is the perfect “Hitlerian” brand. I mean, he really did study Mein Kampf apparently, and he really does knows how to roar up a crowd, and to get to their most brutal, selfish interests, and rile them up about it.
Scott: So do you think his facial snarls are the way that he holds himself on the stage actually motivates people to love him more?
Barbara: I’m not sure he could do any of this without all of the preparation he did. Giant, black Mussolini-like buildings with giant gold Trump in gold letters. And then, graduate to the apprentice where he was always seen as the “God” coming in on the Trump helicopter or speaking to his angels over the phone. So, people really trust him and really think that he’s even beyond the president, that he’s a God.
Scott: Do you think that “God-like” persona was created purposely?
Barbara: With all of his books, with everything he does, it’s all part of getting bigger and bigger to feed his ego and getting more and more important. So, the ultimate, you know sort of __(3:00)__ to an important role he sees as being President of the United States.
Scott: If we break down how he’s marketed himself over the last few months, are there specific tactics that he’s taken that you just immediately say, “Oh wow, I can see why people follow him by the hundreds of thousands of millions…”?
Barbara: One thing is that he definitely has transcended the screen, in terms of Obama’s campaign was the first to be great on social media. What’s considered to be great eight years ago is laughable today. But, Trump is the only one who could do more in a pre-tweet at 3AM than an entire two-million dollar ad campaign. And he’s the only one running who understands that. He uses his tweets…you know, his tweets are never nice. They’re always either to establish a grudge or make fun of someone, or defend himself. It’s not like he’s putting a lot of, like you know, articles about where he stands on taxes or health care out there. You know the way Apple uses the whole thing to reinforce the whole, “Every piece of design, every piece of the machinery,” reinforces that whole new clean thing. Every tweet reinforces that Jeb has low energy, or “Little Marco”. You know, he defines his enemies and he just keeps giving them blows wherever he can. And the tweets are very effective.
Scott: And is that way for him to intimidate his opposition? Or, is it really a way for him to rally people behind him?
Barbara: It’s both! It’s a way to, yeah, but not intimidate the opposition, but just make them angry and make them feel defensive. Put them on the defensive, put them on the ropes. And then the crowds start loving it and they start applauding. You know, making fun of people in the most bullying, fifth grade way. So you come to these rallies he’s having, they remove the troublemakers just like they did for Hitler’s rally where big security men wearing Trump shirts come and run the guy out of town. Then the rally stops for five minutes to say, “U.S.A! U.S.A! That’s exactly the opposite of what the USA has meant to most people.
Scott: Don’t all politicians use fear when they’re trying to become elected?
Barbara: They certainly do, but certainly none has the proficiency of a Trump. Really, whoever would dream that at a presidential debate, someone would talk about the size of his manhood. Even little old ladies in the midwest who would tut-tut this think he’s adorable!
Scott: He says things that insult women. But yet, women, as you say in the midwest find him adorable. How does that work?
Barbara: I think it’s because they were devoted Apprentice watchers. They think they know him from The Apprentice. And that’s what so dangerous about reality television, because it’s completely scripted to make him look like he’s the king of all kings.
Scott: Is there a marketing campaign you remember for a brand that resembles what Trump is doing?
Barbara: It’s like the evil, dark, fascist underbelly of Apple. Apple understood, Steve Jobs understood that every bit of branding reinforces the whole goal. It all should add up, that it all should communicate the same way. And, Trump understands that too. Every tweet reinforces what he says on the stump. He never gets much deeper in answering a question except for using the same sort of fifth-grade vocabulary about making America great.
Scott: Is that intentional, do you think?
Barbara: Very intentional.
Scott: Yeah. They say that great brands change the category. Do you think the way he’s acting, he’s changing the political category?
Barbara: Absolutely! He’s showing that the establishment of the Republican party is completely broken. That they exist in some fictional world where Mitt Romney can give a speech and knock down Trump. Same sort of rich, country club, white guy stuff. They keep claiming that they understand that they have to appeal to latinos, or they have to appeal to blacks. But, it’s the same stuff they know all over, it’s the same thing all over. It reminds me of advertising.
Scott: If you’re a marketer, what do you take away from the success of Trump?
Barbara: He is the classic “strong man”. He is the classic demagogue, in that he knows how to relate to crowds, and get to their emotional epicenters and rile people up. But there’s nothing below that. I think the problem is in brands thinking they can get anything from him. Because I think the future is niche marketing, where you’re honest, and you appeal to people out of having something better, being honest, and breaking up what came before. That’s not what Donald Trump is doing.
Scott: But is it maybe the ultimate celebrity marketing campaign? No one comes close to touching his starpower. Therefore, whatever he says, whether it’s creating fear or acting as a demagogue, people are going to love him anyways.
Barbara: First of all, it’s all about raising money, as Bernie said, for TV time. All that time in the past was spent on negative advertising, which was really kind of vicious. When you think about some of terrible negative ads, like against __(9:43-9:45)__ the revolving door that showed a black man coming through and all of that. So terrible, vicious, negative advertising, and what people want with that is not that people will get really excited about the candidate, rather that it will suppress the vote. It will make people so depressed, they won’t vote at all. So, that is effective. Negative advertising is effective, but that’s the outcome.
Scott: But do you think being controversial is a way of generating awareness today?
Barbara: People just don’t love products as much as the brand thinks they love products. So you are really playing Russian Roulette with a brand if you’re try and develop a personality like that.
Scott: Have you watched any of his rallies on television? You really see these mass outpourings of feelings, and it’s extraordinary.
Barbara: It’s like Jerry Springer meets Russ __(10:35)__ meets Hitler.
Scott: But isn’t Trump just really a brand that certain types of people are attracted to?
Barbara: People just don’t believe in brands the way that they want someone to come and make them rich, or to give them respect that they lost, or give them a job. It’s true that he’s this incredible three-hundred and sixty degree brand. But, it’s disingenuous to think that brands can learn anything from him.
Scott: In order for a movement to be super successful, you have to create a sense of urgency, and we talked about fear and enemies. Is that what he’s doing?
Barbara: Yes! He’s a genius at that. You know, the idea that maybe Mexicans, you know Muslim, is immediately scary so you don’t have to say anything else, but Mexicans to us are not scary!
Scott: I don’t think Mexicans are scary.
Barbara: Right. So he had to come up with something like “rapist” to keep it in our mind, to keep them scary, to make us upset. Because we had not been obsessing on Mexicans before he came to town. And it is true that he brought up this whole issue that no one else was talking about it and made it his own. He made it a national issue. He really knows how to combine the fear and ugliness with a really comic, light-hearted side. It’s been part of his plan forever, and it works for him, and he just sees these building blocks. Just like with all of his bankruptcies, he really knows how to use the courts, the average person, the press. He really has this mastery of all of those things.
Scott: But, why do we feel the need to watch him?
Barbara: Well because he’s doing this show that we’ve never seen before, with the highest stakes! No one can believe he actually could say that, and say that again, and say that again. He’s teflon, you know? He just keeps going. So, we’ve never seen a phenomenon like this before. I mean, you could talk about people like Huey Long, or these other people in history, they were a heartbeat away from the presidency. It really does look like he can win. I will say, he’s a branding genius who has nothing to teach about honest products. You talk to anyone who has done any research on him, they’ll tell you he embroiders stuff. The best you can say is that he exaggerates, and that maybe twenty percent is exaggeration and the rest are lies! He has everything you don’t want in a brand.
Scott: Thank you for joining our uprising today, and listening to our show.