It's often said in marketing and advertising that people don't buy what they like.

They buy what they recognize.

Since we are now at the finish line, it should be of vital importance to spend diligent time and energy reflecting back and understanding how we got "here" in the first place.

A long time ago, I read a study by Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania about what emotions drive people to take action the fastest. What emotional content gets shared the most aggressively online.

"Anger is a high-arousal emotion, which drives people to take action," Jonah said. "It makes you feel fired up, which makes you more likely to pass things on."

If you look at Donald Trump's entire campaign, and the emotional components he built his brand upon, regardless of how you feel about the outcome you must admit he executed this masterfully.

At every step, his headlines stirring controversy.

In every publication, his misnomers were parodied.

From every media outlet, channel and platform, his persona was continuously reinforced.

The only emotion to outpace "anger" in terms of sharability, according to this study by Jonah Berger (and many others), is "awe." And Hillary Clinton, as positive her message, did not evoke enough "awe" to outpace the wildfire that was Donald Trump's personal branding reach and power. (And that's not an opinion, that is a statistical fact.)

So, what does this teach us about Personal Branding?

1. People Share Emotion

Say what you will, but some people shared Donald Trump's speech because it "made them feel fired up." (For better or worse.)

Some people shared Melania Trump's speech when they realized it was copy/pasted from Michelle Obama.

And this morning, people have shared every article about Donald Trump because they felt ignited feelings to take action.

I am not saying that Donald Trump's tactics or campaign messages are the primary takeaway, however I am saying it is worthwhile to look at the underlying strategy. When it comes to content, it has to be rooted in emotion. Everyone wants to know how to attract attention. Everyone wants to know "how to go viral." Everyone wants to know how to "stand out from the crowd.

Take a look at the biggest upset in political history as a case study. There is a gold mine of information here.

2. People Follow What They Recognize

People are most shocked by Donald Trump's becoming president because what he was saying seemed so simple. "Make America Great Again."

But there is a phrase in business, and a wise one at that: "Simplicity is velocity." (To quote a mentor of mine.)

Donald Trump's messaging was the epitome of simple--and it was also extraordinarily effective. Even amidst his most recent hurricanes of bad press, he stuck to his message. He stuck to the script. And somehow he found his way to the other side.

When it comes to branding yourself, or your business, there is a huge amount of truth to the power of simplicity. People need to know what you are all about, instantaneously. And if there is one element of campaigning Donald Trump succeeded at, it was sticking to his simple message. "We will be the best. We are the best. America."

3. Perception Is Reality

According to Fortune, Hillary Clinton has Aired 30,700 ads since clinching her presidential nomination. Trump? Zero.

This is the most ideal example of the difference between paid advertising and earned/organic advertising--and when it comes to organic reach, Donald Trump won by a landslide. Absolutely zero contest.

So what does this teach us about brand building?

People don't share or respond to ads. They don't share or respond to press releases.

They share drama. They share "insane." They share "oh my gosh."

Donald Trump effectively latched on to just about every major event over the past 18 months to ensure his name was constantly referenced. That's why, from the very beginning, people said, "This is going to be such an entertaining campaign. Look what he's doing!"

And then he moved closer. And closer. And closer.

And it became abundantly clear that he was not just "being entertaining." He was, very deliberately, securing his position, building his name, and spreading his message in a way that worked effectively in 2016.

Politics aside, this election has been a fascinating case study in regards to personal branding and the ability to generate press, stand out, and ultimately "build a following."

Published on: Nov 9, 2016
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