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3 Lessons in Personal Branding We Can All Learn From Donald Trump

In July 2016, I predicted that Trump is going to win because he plays the media so well. This outcome seems to have surprised many individuals.

Today, I will write about the 3 lessons in personal branding we can all learn from Donald Trump.

Let’s first start with a working definition of “personal branding”.

At IKIGUIDE we always define personal branding as “Superior skills made aspirational”. In the Donald Trump context, this set of skills seem to be really non-conventional, so let’s consider another definition since we are not focusing on skills here.

Instead, we are focusing on general strategies to personal branding by considering how (emotional) human beings behave.

According to Ellis’s Creating Your Personal Brand (2009)

Personal branding is essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organisation.”

Pay attention to the phrases “ongoing process” and “impression in the mind of others”.

With that, let’s get started!

Lesson #1: Great brands will always polarise.


If you are a super ambitious type of leader, be prepared to polarize the masses.

Polarisation of the masses means that people who love you will really love you, and people who hate you will really hate you. It is difficult for people to be neutral towards you.

The implication of this of course is criticism and a lot of hate.

That being said, who has the best personal brand in the history of mankind? It’s not Donald Trump–it’s Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ polarized the masses and encouraged his followers to polarise their followers too. In the bible (Revelation 3:15-16), Jesus said:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

In fact, polarisation is the best validation that your leadership is effective. Why? Because people who follow you will be super loyal and you can always count on their support–in cash or in kind. Your strong vision speaks to their deepest pain points. 

And you can always logically ignore people who hate on you because they won’t benefit you in any way. It’s just hate, you know? Who cares about nobodies, or people who will never support you? And most of the time, haters are not even responding to your arguments, they are merely projecting their unresolved emotions on you.

Therefore, the first lesson to creating a strong personal brand is to keep in mind that “great brands will always polarize”. The next time you receive a hate mail–rejoice! You now have the ability to spark strong emotions in someone else. If you receive a hate mail, naturally it means that you (will eventually) receive a lot of fan mails too.

This is simply the law of large numbers.

So, focus on your followers and make them stronger, not on your haters. And that TLDR hate mail or long anonymous comment?

Just thrash it. That hater just spent one hour of his life typing some incoherent, emotional nonsense which you spent 1 second thrashing.

Ignoring someone is the highest form of response, because you are basically saying to the hater that you are not going to waste your time on his or her problems, or him/her. That’s some classy behavior, isn’t it? 🙂

Lesson #2: Anchoring.


Before Trump’s entrance into politics, what do the masses remember him for?

That’s right: They remember him for The Apprentice and the catchy phrase, “You’re fired”.

So way before his foray into politics, Trump had already anchored a dominant and aggressive image in the minds of the masses through The Apprentice. This is a PR and negotiation technique known as “anchoring“:

“Anchoring is a term used in psychology to describe the common human tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.

During normal decision making, individuals anchor, or overly rely, on specific information or a specific value and then adjust to that value to account for other elements of the circumstance.

Usually once the anchor is set, there is a bias toward that value.

Take, for example, a person looking to buy a used car – they may focus excessively on the odometer reading and the year of the car, and use those criteria as a basis for evaluating the value of the car, rather than considering how well the engine or the transmission is maintained.”

Therefore, before attempting something really ambitious, work on your anchoring. Trump did exactly that via his reality TV show The Apprentice. He anchored himself as The Boss.

Lesson #3: Forget about perfection–be yourself.


In my experience as a personal branding advisor, I’d encountered two clients who are obsessed with having a perfect image.

This is in contrast to Trump, who does not give a damn about having a perfect image. He is instead super comfortable in his own (orange) skin, which is why he gives off an air of authenticity and confidence.

Trump also happens to be a grandiose narcissist, which is why so many people find him visionary and inspiring! LOL. In fact, what pisses his opponents off is that he seems to embrace even negative publicity, as long as his name is mentioned.

Therefore, it is always wise to remember that in personal branding…

Forget about perfection–be truly comfortable in your own skin. 

Don’t be afraid to be your imperfect self, even if that gets you a lot of hate. Because for every hate you get, you’d definitely get some love, too.

It takes courage to be yourself and assert your opinions.


To be honest, I didn’t believe in the power of personal branding until I saw with my own eyes how three really dubious individuals use this concept to their advantage.

If nonsense people can get far based on personal branding, imagine how much further legit people can go!

This post was first published on The Hieno! This version is edited.

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