April 1st, 2016
By most accounts, Donald Trump, owner of 17 courses, is an excellent golfer.
And, of course, he brags about his skill: “I’ve won many club championships. Many. Frankly, if I had time to play more often, my handicap would be lower. I enjoy the competition. And, if I hit a bad shot, I don’t get upset. I’m not a club thrower.”
In golf, as in politics, there are three successive stages — the tee, the fairway, and the green — each requiring a different approach and tool.
Hitting a ball from the tee, located hundreds of yards from the green, requires enormous power and control. Alternatively, sinking a putt on the green demands accuracy and finesse. Using a driver on the green, and hitting the ball with maximum power, would result in missing the target.
Stupefied the Pundits
Coincidentally, branding and dealmaking are built on the same principles.
For some reason, perhaps ego, Trump has thus far ignored golf’s basics while executing his presidential campaign: he’s used his driver and maximum power the entire time.
He began his campaign on June 16, 2015, at Trump Tower in New York City. By connecting so vividly to angry voters, he set the world on fire, stupefied the pundits, and vaulted past Jeb Bush into the lead, which he has maintained ever since.
Until the past week.
The cumulative effect of Trump’s gaffes, paucity of policy knowledge, and lack of finesse has kicked in. His inevitability and invincibility are waning.
Ineptitude and Inartfulness
Here are three recent examples of Trump’s surprising ineptitude and inartfulness, which one would not expect from a worldclass businessman:
Not a golfer? Here’s a parallel metaphor for depicting Trump’s strategic and tactical errors: the three-stage rocket. The first stage is designed to overcome gravity with massive power. Trump executed this stage masterfully.
The second stage, employing less fuel and a smaller engine, stabilizes the vehicle and also refines course accuracy.
Finally, the third stage uses the least fuel, the smallest engine, and extreme finesse to hit the target. As mentioned above, Trump never entered stages two or three, and he might blow the entire election because of that blunder.
Parting Advice to CEOs
Make America Great Again is Trump’s brand. It’s a fantastic brand — compelling, memorable, and repeatable. But, it had to develop over time, in three stages, akin to those of a rocket launch — or each hole of a golf tournament.
During the first stage, Trump used power and bluster to overcome political gravity, and he succeeded. But, he never exhibited the finesse of policy knowledge and clever behavior as he entered stage two. Accordingly, he’s now in danger of completely missing his target in stage three.
Know that your branding rollout occurs in three stages. Use the correct approach and tool at each stage, while consistently maintaining your brand.
Never use a putter on the tee or a driver on the green — as you wouldn’t blast off with the third stage of a rocket or try to hit the target with the first.
There is no success without knowing and following the basics.
POSTSCRIPT #1: Trump Admits Mistake in Retweeting Heidi Cruz Photo (04.02.16)
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.
Trump Photo Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Archive