January 15th, 2016
Groucho Marx once said that he didn’t want to belong to any club that would accept him as a member. He reminds me of Donald Trump, who has eviscerated the GOP club.
Public declarations of independence scare many people and are, therefore, rare: belonging to a club, to some, is more important than life itself.
Popular TV shows such as Cheers, Friends, Seinfeld, and The Big Bang Theory are based on groups — clubs, if you will — upon which members rely for safety, comfort, and direction. And, clubs admit new members reluctantly.
Conformity and self-preservation are the hallmarks of clubs, which often lose sight of why they formed and whom they serve. Over time, they can become oblivious to and disdainful of their members and the outside world. Examples are unions, governments, street gangs, industry associations, and political parties — where being unique is a death sentence.
Early in my freshman year, I joined a fraternity and moved from the dormitory into the frat house. Soon thereafter, I realized I had acted hastily, that I was not a joiner, and quit the fraternity. Upon regaining my independence and returning to the dorm, one of the fraternity elites came to my door to berate me for having had the audacity to leave. Seriously.
The Belonging Barrier
Rumors swirled a few months ago that GOP operatives were hatching a scheme to stop Trump, regardless of how much the voters want him. Why? The elites in any organization believe they own the organization — and everyone attached to it.
Belonging, to elitist leaders, is a privilege; those indifferent or resistant to belonging are the enemies. The GOP loathes Donald Trump because he belongs to his voters, whom the GOP long ago abandoned, not to the club, not to its elitist leaders. Accordingly, Trump threatens their necessity, their very existence — and so he scares them.
Abraham Maslow, in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation,” created a hierarchy of successive needs to explain why people behave as they do, in various situations. If people can’t meet their physiological needs — food, water, hygiene — nothing else matters.
The “belonging need” is in the center of this hierarchy. If intense enough, it is a barrier to personal growth. Think of the characters on the TV shows mentioned above. Think of people you know who need approval from their friends before making any decisions.
Belonging is also a barrier to corporate growth: it inhibits fathoming customers, central to branding. Because Trump is an expert in fathoming customers — specifically tapping into how they feel and feeding those feelings back to them — his brand is strong. The GOP, on the other hand, is a disaster on the brink of extinction, with no brand. But, the GOP elites value their club above all else.
The GOP won elections in 2010 and 2014, putting Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. Yet, GOP elites ignored the voters who elected them, didn’t stand up to President Obama, and are now widely despised — and don’t even realize it.
Those ignored, angry voters are now showing up in arenas around the country, thousands per event, to see Trump. The scared GOP elites literally don’t understand why.
Parting Advice to CEOs
The need to belong is a barrier to growth, both personal and corporate. Don’t allow it to be your barrier.
Never allow your employees to think of your company or your industry as a club.
Insular, inward, club-like attitudes and behaviors will sink your brand.
If you ignore this advice, here’s what will happen: a unique outsider like Donald Trump will appear from nowhere, steal your customers, and scare you.
POSTSCRIPT #1: GOP Establishment Needs Candidate to Beat Trump
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2016 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.