The Trump Shock & The Dangers of Only Listening to Others Like You

The Trump Shock

The Trump Shock & The Dangers of Only Listening to Others Like You

2016 really has been a year for Black Swan events — results that were as transformative as they were unexpected.

First it was Brexit, then President Trump.

The media, researchers, commentators and academics all expected a different result. Yes, their data suggested, it would be close — but smart money was on the traditional outcomes.

The people voted otherwise — to the shock and horror of the usual suspects.

So what happened — and, from our perspective, what are the implications for marketers?


It’s become more and more apparent in recent times that online social chatter — especially via forums such as Twitter — has been dominated by highly vocal contributors who often behave like (not to be too delicate about it) bullies, criticising and marginalising those whose opinions are not the same as theirs.

Unsurprisingly, those with contrary views have therefore been removing themselves from what was supposed to be a debate but instead has become a monologue.

As a consequence, many crowd platforms have become single-voice platforms … and nowhere is that more evident than in the political arena, where silence has become the preferred option for those whose views run contrary to prevailing viewpoints.

That does not mean, of course, that the silent crowd has changed its opinion — simply that it saves its efforts for the ballot box, where such opinions can, and in fact have, changed nations.

In the UK, it’s been dubbed the “Shy Tory” factor:

Shy Tory Factor is a name given by British opinion polling companies to a phenomenon first observed by psephologists in the 1990s, where the share of the vote won by the Conservative Party (known as the ‘Tories’) in elections was substantially higher than the proportion of people in opinion polls who said they would vote for the party. This was most notable in the general elections of 1992 and then 2015, when the Conservative Party exceeded opinion polls and comfortably won re-election. (Wikipedia)


Colin Shaw, writing on LinkedIn in 2015 in the aftermath of the unforeseen UK election landslide, suggested three lessons for marketers. We’ve added two more, which we’ll get to in due course:

Why did people say they were going to vote one way and then change their mind? My take is people often say one thing and do another.

Since many marketers are also responsible for polling for their brand, maybe we can glean some wisdom from the polling failure by taking a closer look at Why People Say One Thing and Do Another.

Reason #1: It is a complex process to understand what people (and Customers) want.

The pollsters weren’t trying to get it wrong. They were earnest in their efforts to get a sample on which they could predict where the election was headed. So they, like all of us, were scratching their heads when the dust settled, and the Conservatives won a clear majority. Even if they were reaching a broad sample of the British population, the answers they got back might not have been accurate. Why? Because sometimes the voter didn’t know what they wanted yet. What they wanted for the election was “hidden” in their subconscious, down in the emotions.

What Can Marketers Learn From This?

Many times there is a hidden part of how a Customer feels that drives their behavior. You might complete research where Customers tell you they want something, implement that something, and see no change in Customer behavior. It’s important to look for the causes of the behavior to see what Customers really want. We find most often in our work that these causes are hidden down in the emotional subconscious.

Reason #2: People have two ways of thinking about things and whichever one is in control at the moment will direct their behavior.

We know there is a big difference between what people say and what people do.Sometimes people don’t know what they want until they are forced to make a decision, as in the voting booth. However, the way people make decisions many times, is with their heart not their head.  In Professor Daniel Kahneman’s book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” we learn about the System One (emotional, instinctive, fast) and System Two (methodical, logic-based, slow) thinking. On the poll inquiry, they could have used System One thinking, answering quickly without using their more rational thinking from System Two. However, System Two might have showed up for the actual vote. Or vice versa. It is, in many ways, mysterious.

What Can Marketers Learn From This?

Essentially, the difference between what people say they will do and what they actually do is the core message of our Emotional Signature. People are not rational, so basing your actions on research addressing the rational side of your experience is not going to get you to where you need to go. Every brand has an experience that generates emotions that drive your Customer’s behavior—and they are not rationally based. Exploring the emotions connected to your brand is going to give you a much better basis for predicting how Customers react.

Reason #3: Marketers need to consider how the data is being collected.  

In an article on the Huffington Post on the polling debacle, a correspondent argued old methodologies for polling might have contributed to the error. Polling results come from sampling the population, usually via their home phone. As many of you can imagine, it is increasingly difficult to reach people on a home number. Why do pollsters still use the home phone in 2015 you might ask? Because there is a consensus amongst pollsters that mobile phones “are unreliable.” But frankly, if you aren’t reaching me on my mobile you can rely on not reaching me. I have a feeling that’s true for more than one of you reading this.

What Can Marketers Learn From This?

It’s important to change your methods of communication if you want to get a “sample” of the population. Don’t let the way things have always been done be the driver for your methods.

Politics and polling go together. They are essential to those who run and those who vote. However, in the election in the UK [last year], the pollsters failed to provide an accurate representation of voters’ intentions, leaving many wondering if the methodology needs a closer look. My take is it probably should, but also that human irrationality and emotions played a part in the inaccuracy as well.

And a fourth reason, which Mr Shaw didn’t mention at the time:

Reason #4: those with opinions that are not considered “politically correct” simply won’t share them publicly

As we’re starting to see from post-mortems on Brexit and on the Trump presidency, when consumers hold contrary views, they’ve learned to keep those to themselves. Even so, when the time comes, those opinions will still drive their actions.

What Can Marketers Learn From This?

Whether you’re launching a new product or promoting an existing one, you should take care to canvas the opinions of a representative cross-section of your target audience. Too many products have failed because they were based on the needs and desires of the creators of the marketing (and their peers) rather than the wishes of the true consumers.

Then there’s a fifth and perhaps most important consideration of all, contributed to Forbes by John Carpenter the day after the Trump result:

Reason #5: Strong Emotions Can Really Make A Big Difference

While polling data correctly predicted [that Hillary Clinton would win the popular vote], it failed to make the more nuanced call that anger among working class white voters ran deep, and would drive them to the polls in larger numbers than the luke-warm Clinton supporters in the Democratic base.

Many pollsters are whining that they got the big picture right. What they got wrong was the much-harder-to-measure sense of how likely people were to vote. They knew that Clinton, like Trump, was disliked by many voters. What they failed to predict was that Clinton’s “negatives” would weaken turnout among people who had voted for Barrack Obama – votes she needed and didn’t get, especially in key states.

Trump is no luddite. He understands the power of the social media echo chamber, maximizing the strength of his 14.2 million Twitter followers to spread his unfiltered message. His opponents, meanwhile, angrily denounced him in post after post, most of which were read almost exclusively by like-minded opponents.

Arguably, similar passions for change drove pro-Brexit voters in the UK.

What Can Marketers Learn From This?

Are your supporters passionate — or merely accepting? Would they go out of their way to choose your product over a competing brand? Are they true fans, or might they easily be wooed away by a better price or a more enticing argument?

If you don’t know the answer to that question — or, worse, if the answer is negative — then your brand is vulnerable.

So what else should NZ marketers watch for in 2017?

Well, when it comes to Black Swan events like those above, our crystal ball is probably no better than yours.

But what we have done is look ahead at what marketers should expect and plan for in 2017, across a wide variety of industries and technologies — based on local and global trends you may not yet have had the opportunity to examine — and we’re turning those forecasts into a comprehensive NZ MARKETING INSIGHTS FOR 2017 report & slide deck in PowerPoint format (with accompanying notes) – information that you can easily present to your team and your clients, bringing everyone up to speed on the latest New Zealand marketing insights as we accelerate towards 2017.

Marketing Insights 2017

This comprehensive slide deck, with accompanying notes, consists of at least 200 slides covering:

  • The latest NZ research and statistics, and what they mean for New Zealand marketers
  • Local and international television trends and comments
  • The changes impacting NZ newspapers and their implications for marketers
  • Is Small Data the new Big?
  • Magazine news and trends
  • What you need to know about Radio for 2017
  • The very latest on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google Plus and other key social properties
  • The new popularity of Slack, Yammer and Facebook At Work and what they mean for businesses
  • Programmatic advertising explained and explored
  • Online video – how can you take advantage of this seemingly unstoppable trend?
  • Wearables: fad or threat?
  • Messaging Apps reviewed and implemented
  • Context brokering and smarter business decisions
  • Loyalty program evolution and opportunity
  • Smart Data Discovery and analytics enhancements
  • Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana and the new breed of AI mobile support
  • Is your content really mobile-savvy?
  • How can you use AI?
  • Drones and their promotional potential
  • The latest on the Internet of Things
  • Blockchain and its marketing uses
  • Emerging technologies such as Smart Dust and 4D printing – and why you should be getting ready for them now

There’s plenty more, covering old and new media, insights and analytics, strategies and tactics – but we think you get the idea.




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