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A tower of powerful lessons for boosting your business's branding

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In 2005, when the Trump International Hotel & Tower was under construction in downtown Chicago, our community newspaper ran a full-page ad with the headline “Trump 5-Star Living.”

Excerpts from the ad's copy included:

• Donald J. Trump raises the standard of downtown living once again.

• Indulge in refined luxuries found only in a Trump five-star hotel.

• Experience world-class amenities and superior service provided by the opulence and comfort of private living in an elegant hotel.

• Enjoy views of Lake Michigan while experiencing style and sophistication in the heart of Chicago.

• Discover the elite lifestyle known only to a select few worldwide.

• Residential condominiums available from $506,000 to more than $28 million, and hotel residences available from $815,000 to more than $3 million.

OK, not the kinda place that'll attempt to lure you with free cable or a complimentary breakfast buffet.

What the ad does, though, is reinforce Trump's image. One-of-a-kind. Extraordinary. Must be seen to be believed.

Call it boastful or braggadocio, it's also brilliant branding. Trump continually finds ways to call attention to himself and his businesses. I'm convinced that's why Trump's hair style looks so goofy. It's masterful marketing. It's unique to him. It generates discussion, debate and ridicule, in the media or at the watercooler.

Talk show host David Letterman once showed an audience member three pictures. Each was covered, except for the top of one's head of hair. There was one picture of Trump and two pictures of Star Wars characters — wookies. From this irreverent clue, the guest had to determine: Trump or wookie?

It was hysterical. It was also one more minute of free network TV time for Trump.

And Trump also capitalized on his TV or "Apprentice" image in the newspaper's ad. It appealed to its decision-maker by focusing on pride, prestige, status and ego. All these are actually good things, because they, too, can be applicable (if appropriate) to your products and services.

These decision-influencers are not the exclusive possession of the elite. The key is to know your decision-makers. What drives them? What causes them to say "yes"? Trump's ad used words and phrases such as "indulge," "world-class," "sophistication," "five-star," "superior," "select" and "opulence."

Other ads in that same newspaper used words and phrases like "free," "valuable coupons," "70 percent off when you buy one for only retail price" or "mail-in rebate."

Trump doesn't appeal to the bargain shopper. His property ain't the place you're gonna sleep cheap — as a guest or resident. And that's fine. Trump knows it, and so does his sales and marketing team.

They want "snob appeal" to drive their traffic and revenue. That's smart. For their product.

Would it work for Wal-Mart? Motel 6? Taco Bell?

Imagine this ad:

"When your palate craves authentic south-of-the-border cuisine, customized to your sophisticated taste buds in under 60 seconds, as you comfortably cruise through our ornate drive-thru lane in splendor ... "

Today, you can hop online and buy a pair of Nike shoes at Sears. However, you couldn't several years ago. That's because Nike decided it wouldn't sell its shoes at Sears stores.

Initially, it felt Sears' "discount perception" diminished the quality and image of its products. At the time, was this arrogance?

Nope. Nike said it simply wanted to protect its "brand." Right or wrong, it was a strategic business decision. Nike knew you can't be all things to all people.

When clients tell me the "world" is their marketplace, I politely nod. Then I hand them the local telephone book, about the size of a microwave, and say, "Perfect. Then here are some hot leads!"

They quickly realize the world is a big place. And if you spend or waste time trying to convince the wrong person to play in your sandbox, it's a bottom-line boo-boo.


• Know your customers, i.e., their habits, preferences, likes, desires, goals, dreams — and appeal to them.

• Discover where else your decision-makers shop, what they read, where they hang, what they play, how they relax, by whom and by what they're influenced. This gives you valuable insights about how and when to invest sales and marketing dollars. Plus, it positions possibilities for strategic alliances.

• If you try to attract all customers with the same language or appeal, it's likely to backfire and can cause irreparable harm with a defined market. That's why Disney created Touchstone Pictures — to make and promote movies that weren't traditional Disney family fare.

• Communicate with customers as a peer. You should never present yourself as being superior or subservient. Let decision-makers be impressed with your knowledge, expertise, ability to solve problems, create solutions, drive results and attain positive outcomes.

• Find strategic and creative ways to "get noticed" with both your personal brand and your company brand.

• Protect your brand with a vengeance.

• Get others talking about you. It's still the cheapest and most effective way to spread your message and grow your business.

• Know that your visibility helps drive your credibility and profitability.

Jeff Blackman is an Illinois-based speaker, author, success coach, broadcaster and lawyer. Email him at

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