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Trump: The Power of Shared Purpose

One is tall, while the other is on the stumpy side. One was born in wealth and was fed with a silver spoon and the other in a shanty town in Argentina. One is blonde, the other has jet-black hair.

Although they are polar opposites and neither would like to see himself reflected in the other, the U.S. president-elect and Diego Maradona are similar. They love provocation. They both know what a powerful weapon it is and wield it as if their lives depended on it.

The faded soccer star constantly provokes without knowing why or what for. He has an obsession for being relevant in his homeland even though he lives in Dubai. Provocation ensures he is always in the headlines and gets mentioned on social media, yet he derives no benefit. On the contrary, sponsors want nothing to do with him and FIFA is terrified by any suggestion of his coming on board. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has always been provocative, but over the past year and a half he has done so with a clear objective: to become the most powerful man on Earth. And he hasn’t done too badly in his quest.

The media feel responsible and are offering a collective mea culpa. They dedicated airtime to each of Trump’s provocations and amplified them further with panels and discussions. The 2016 presidential election was like “Big Brother,” only on every channel. But what was once humorous and a boon for ratings and advertising sales ended up sparking a re-evaluation of the journalistic profession and its responsibility to the country.

Like the nation as a whole, the two main political parties also are asking themselves: How did Trump win?

Among other reasons, he was able to leverage confrontation and his unique persona to attract attention, but unlike Maradona he was able to link that state of conflict with a shared purpose.

“Make America Great Again,” the real-estate mogul said. He centered his entire platform around that purpose and coordinated it well with his campaign, which spent just one-third the amount forked out by his vanquished rivals. Trumped tapped into a high-level common interest that many identified with, especially in today’s world.

Shared purpose is a new and indispensable concept for producing engagement, and Trump is living proof of its effectiveness. “Make America Great Again” struck a tremendous chord with millions of voters because it spoke to a longing that was their own. By drawing on the power of shared purpose, Trump inspired many people even though his life has little to do with that of the small-town inhabitants who waited in line for hours to see him, as if he were a rock star.

That invitation to build a new country is a high-level purpose around which millions have converged – a shared purpose. How many in this country want the United States to play the lead role and to live a better life in a kind of Disneyworld, as Donald Trump proposed? Millions. That, among other things, is why he won.

Hillary Clinton and her campaign, on the other hand, employed an outdated advertising method centered on the tired-old message “Stronger Together.” She alternated that slogan with another that simply said “I’m with Her,” seeking unsuccessfully to forge a connection.

Those advertising slogans were created for a world that no longer exists. An era of media supremacy in which the goal was to persuade through repetition. But now any proposed activity must generate engagement.

Besides presenting a common interest or shared purpose, Trump was authentic. By showing his true self, he generated genuine engagement even though with his wealth and boundless narcissism he has little in common with the masses who voted for him in urban centers of less than 100,000 people nationwide. His formula consisted of being authentic and having a shared purpose.

Trump also understood that we live in a world of conversations, not monologues, and that society no longer tolerates having things they don’t want drilled into them.

Those who dismiss Trump as a populist remain stuck on that idea and aren’t seeing the forest for the trees. He did everything you weren’t supposed to do, but he forged a connection and was authentic. He introduced two new and highly effective rules of the game and delivered the Democrats a humiliating, albeit not so inexplicable, defeat.

A Republican leader told me this week: We were in intensive care as recently as two weeks ago, with everyone bickering and divided. This man and his purpose have now united us and are getting us to work in unison. A real-life storybook ending.

* Newlink President & CEO

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