Personally, I find many of Trump's ideas stupid and offensive. Nevertheless, I believe his personal branding methods are light years ahead of nearly everyone else. Here are the top 3 lessons every entrepreneur can learn from Trump:
1. Create Strong Emotion
Branding is never about facts: it's about emotion. Your brand is how people feel about you. What's important here isn't the quality of the emotion but it's intensity.
The weakest brands elicit tepid emotions; the strongest brands spark strong emotions. From a branding perspective it's best to be both loved by many and hated by some rather than liked by everybody.
Of course, if the percentage of haters restive to lovers gets too big, your brand will suffer. Even so, if some of the public doesn't hate you, you're not creating sufficient emotion for the rest of the public to love you.
To cite a common example, there's a fairly large minority of consumers who actively hate Apple. These haters are the natural flip side of the intense loyalty the brand inspires in many of its users.
To use "Create Strong Emotion" in your own branding, don't be afraid to create a brand message or image that some people will find offensive. If your brand is completely inoffensive, you know you're off track.
2. Manipulate the Media
With branding, nothing is more fatal nor futile than pursuing the same strategies that have worked in the past. This is especially true during a period of vast technological and social change.
Trump's experiences in the entertainment industry gave him the skills he needed to manipulate the media during his candidacy, providing billions of dollars of free publicity.
Meanwhile his competitors were still branding themselves (and attempting to rebrand Trump) wth massive television advertising, a classic but no longer effective 20th century market strategy.
To manipulate the media in your own branding, accompany highly-targeted ad buys with a social media campaign that include content that will get coverage from traditional media, non-traditional media (like bloggers), other companies and your customers.
3. Always Be Entertaining
The Internet and the smart phone have reduced the average person's attention span to about that of a goldfish. Under these circumstances the cardinal sin of branding is boring people.
Say what you will about Trump, he's never boring. Rather than droning policy points, he makes broad, slightly crazy statements. Rather than following the script, he constantly riffs.
By contrast, his competitors--especially Clinton and Cruz, both of whom have a somewhat schoolmarmish air about them--are frequently, even famously, boring. Most of the time, you can predict what they'll say on a topic, every time they say anything.
In business branding, "Always Be Entertaining" means dumping the notion you should teach customers about your product. Rather than dump a message on them, engage customers with something surprising that's relevant to them. Then segue naturally to your message.
Just to be clear, Trump's mastery of personal branding is no guarantee of long term success at his current endeavor. Like all brands, the fate of Trump's will be depend upon the quality of the product itself not the brilliance of the branding.