WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Is Donald Trump a marketing wizard?
That’s the topic of a new book, “The Trump Presidential Playbook.” You can expect to see more books coming out about Trump’s marketing prowess and genius after he pulled off a seemingly improbable run to the GOP presidential nomination against 16 rivals possessing greater campaign experience, supposedly more seasoned organizations and polished track records as conservatives. More on that later.
No one would doubt the billionaire knows a thing or two about marketing – and certainly self-promotion. There’s enough of a portfolio of Trump-name branded properties, steaks, high-profile beauty pageant dealings and TV show drama to conclude the argument.
Interestingly, a few weeks ago I came across a Trump press kit from the late 1980s while at the offices of the Palm Beach Daily News. Tucked inside the folder were cover stories about Trump by Newsweek (1987), Fortune (1986), Business Week (1987) and The New York Times Magazine (1984).
The common denominator in all these stories: Trump had burst onto the scene as the celebrity tycoon of the moment, and everyone was trying to figure him out.
The story that most caught my eye was the Business Week cover story from July 1987, a story I assisted on as a staff member in the magazine’s Miami bureau at the time.
The Business Week headline read, “Trump: What’s behind the hype?” Near the end of the story, the reporters note Trump is about to publish a book called “The Art of the Deal.” They then quote The Donald modestly saying:
“To tell the truth,” he confesses, “I don’t even know how I do it.”
I bet the suffering and anguishing GOP establishment, plus the 16 rivals he bested on the campaign trail, still haven’t figured out how he does it, either.
It was a just a year ago that Trump launched his campaign. Pundits thought he stumbled badly out of the gate with his attack on Mexican immigrants. In fact, it catapulted him to front-runner status immediately, and he rarely looked back after.
Which brings us back to “The Trump Presidential Playbook” book.
Personally, you can skip this breezy, 180-page book chock full of armchair analysis. My recommendation is hold out until someone in Trump’s camp offers a behind-the-scenes look at how this campaign was really managed. That would be a must-read.
Or put Rick Perlstein’s 2000 book, “Nixonland,” on your summer reading list. Read the first 200 pages and you'll see lots of parallels between 2016 and the 1968. History, as the cliche says, repeats itself.
I’m thinking the key to understanding Trump’s 2016 political success isn’t so much in his branding, marketing or playbook, but in GOP voters’ anger. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about business, your sales pitch works best when the market is ready for your product.
I bet Trump knows that too.
Antonio Fins writes for The Palm Beach Post. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.