Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Donald Trump is facing the kind of crisis all media brands face

Donald Trump's obviously no politician. He's not a businessman either. He's a media brand.

All his inveighing against the media is understandable because, like everyone else in the media, he's obsessed with the media.

He was invented by the media. He was invented specifically by Si Newhouse, the boss of Conde Nast, who got the idea that Trump had done well on the cover of GQ and thought he might have a book in him.

The book, The Art Of The Deal, was created by Tony Schwartz whose story of how it was done is definitely worth reading. The book successfully promoted the false idea that Trump was some kind of deal-making genius, when in fact he was a laughing stock among property developers

Enough people bought that idea for NBC to subsequently hire Trump as the figurehead of "The Apprentice". These programmes built him up into some kind of superhuman figure. As somebody said, he eventually became a poor man's idea of a rich man, a weak man's idea of a strong man.

Between them these two mainstream media companies built the brand that he was able to ride to the White House on a wave of brand synergy beyond the wildest dreams of the Harvard Business School.

His current travails remind me of what happens to all media properties when they come under pressure. What do they do? Stick or twist? Do they try to reach out to a new audience and risk alienating the audience they've already got or do they settle for delivering higher satisfaction to a shrinking core? This used to happen on magazines all the time.

It's even more intense on TV. TV success is always way more personal. TV stars who feel their ratings slipping do the only thing they know how to do, which is turn themselves up to eleven.


  1. It was Fran Lebowitz who nailed him on the poor man rich man thing.

  2. How do *you* think this will play out David? How much gas has he got left in the tank?

  3. I don't think anyone knows the answer to that. I have some sympathy with the view that the worst thing that can happen is impeachment. There's nothing he would love more than being the responsibility-free head of a mass movement of people who believe that the establishment has conspired against their chosen President.