Making Sense of the Unexpected

By now everyone and his mother/brother/horse has opined about how Donald Trump, inarguably a petty, bombastic vulgarian, climbed to the highest perch in the land (at least from a status/power standpoint).


So I will chime in, with a very able assist.  Professor Tim Calkins (Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University) has defined Trump’s ascent as an example of the concept of benefit vs values.  In short, people are attracted to and identify with values but ultimately vote for benefits.  A link to Prof. Calkins’s piece follows below.

Before that, however, a thought on how this can be applied to marketing.  Values may be good, but not necessarily sufficient to make the sale.  Strong clear benefits have a better shot.

A good example was provided by colleague Harvey Chimoff, regarding an innovative round paper towel (Ora Paper Towels) that provides dual benefits of one-hand grabbing and environmental benefit (no cardboard tube).  Scores very high on the innovation scale (although I remember round beach towels long ago that allowed rotating to catch the sun without moving your towel – – was interesting but didn’t really catch fire.)  Actually, this design ultimately proved unique but not trademarkable.

As it relates to Ora, seems that the values are admirable but perhaps not earth-shaking enough to generate a change from the old familiar cylinders (higher cost; where do I put this stack; etc)

Regarding values vs benefits as a motivator: the Clinton campaign had sort of a feel-good, I’m with her, we’re on this bus together sort of feel but didn’t seem to have at its core a defined cause/benefit that people really were passionate about and willing to make a stand on. It was almost literally, vote for no change.


The Trump campaign (and Sanders’s, for that matter), had at its core a group of people who were feeling disenfranchised, mad as hell, pitchforks and torches handy, skin in the game, and willing to hold their noses and vote for change. (hmm…sounds a little familiar…)


In the end, seemed like a much higher level of passion, frustration and motivation (and maybe desperation) among Trump voters. And they acted on it.

And now, Professor Calkins’s adroit dissection:

Clip and save for the next election!


2 responses »

  1. I think we need to pump the brakes just a little in this post election analysis. The pundits and so-called “experts” are piling on in their praise of Trump just as they piled on for Clinton before the election. As usual, they are wrong.

    Far be it from me to be the contrarian; and I know a lot of folks will dismiss this as sour grapes, bur I believe it is important to remember that in point of fact Donald Trump did NOT win the election. More people voted for Hillary Clinton than voted for Trump. In literally every other level of government and culture, that makes Clinton the victor. But when it comes to the highest office in the land, we have this ridiculous, antiquated institution called the electoral college. These are the people we actually voted for, although we know nothing about them. And now on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December (WTF?) these people will meet to decide the Presidency.

    This is the clearest indicator I know of to refute the common belief that our country is a Democracy. We are not; we are a Republic, not a true Democracy. In our country we refer to Clinton’s victory as the “popular” vote. In a true Democracy it would simply be called “the vote”. He/She who collects more votes wins the office. Wow, what a concept!

    I’m not disputing the validity of the Trump Presidency. I support my country and I accept the results. It would take a Constitutional amendment to eliminate this archaic white elephant, which is never going to happen (see “Equal Rights Amendment”). But it ought to. Our system is tragically flawed. Two out of the last five (that’s 40%) of our last Presidential elections have been awarded to the guy who received fewer votes than his opponent. IMHO that is disgraceful for a country that holds itself up as a beacon of fairness in government.

    So, OK, Donald J. Trump is President-elect of the United States of America. I get that. But can we please stop it with the talk of “landslide” and “stunning victory”? What’s stunning is that the true victor didn’t win.


    • Appreciate the comment. I would suggest that rather than a binary ‘my guy won, your guy didn’t’ approach focused on the candidates, we spend some time thinking about the electorate. Regardless of the ‘winner’, and the exact vote count, there are still roughly equal numbers of people who voted one way or the other, who have different reasons for voting how they did. Interpreting the results as a victory for half of the population, to a lot of people, means the other half can be disregarded. Those on both sides of this debate would be well-served to remember that everyone who voted has the legitimate right to do so, and everyone’s welfare is deserving of consideration, whether they are a so-called minority or part of a majority.



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