You Are So Mean! I’m Telling on You!

Donald Trump speaks with the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board Monday, June 29, 2015 in Chicago. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

You Are So Mean! I’m Telling on You!

“You’re mean to me. Why must you be mean to me? Gee, honey, it seems to me you love to see me cryin’.”

Who knew that when Mean to Me was written in 1929, and later recorded by everyone from Billie Holliday to Frank Sinatra to Linda Ronstadt, that the 2016 Republican nominee for president would ask his opponent essentially the same question in the first national debate?

In front of an audience of an estimated 100 million people, he complained that she had run “very mean” ads about him, completely ignoring the fact that the ads in question largely consisted of his sound bites strung together to create a narrative.

Candidly, in accusing his opponent of “being mean” the nominee used vernacular I’ve not heard since my daughter was in 6th grade.

In that moment, and by choosing those words, this Brand Strategist believes the Republican nominee did unspeakable damage to his personal brand.

For nearly 20 years I have conducted qualitative research with clients and their customers to educate myself about a company’s essence.

Whether the client is in finance, technology, healthcare, higher education, non-profits or professional services, the very first question I ask remains the same: “When you hear the name “blank” what is the one word association that comes to mind?”

The answers I receive are visceral and revealing and help me to understand what space the company currently holds in its most important stakeholder’s mind. I then use that data as a springboard to craft a comprehensive brand narrative.

So while in years passed, the nominee’s “one word associations” may have been “powerhouse,” “successful” and “brash.” After his debate performance, according the Twittersphere, his new word associations appear to be “thin-skinned,” “babyish,” and “hypersensitive.”

Not words commonly associated with the future leader of the free world.

Furthermore, I’d like to suggest that such associations deviate from his storied brand heritage and cast him in a new light that may not propel his mission.

Many have speculated that the Republican nominee is running for president to raise name and brand awareness for his many properties; case in point the recent hotel opening disguised as a press conference.

If that is the case, it is best he remember the most iconic brands are built by delivering a unique, compelling, and consistent experience at every point of consumer contact over the course of many years.

That said, my free advice is to give special and renewed attention to his brand narrative by refining his unique brand personality and then consistently delivering it through elegantly delivered messages, elevator speech, and key words and phrases.

As I told my daughter many years ago, the more he considers and controls his words, the less likely it is that a girl on the playground will be mean to him.

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