End of the Republic

If I were a betting man, at this stage my money would be on Trump to win the American presidential election.

This is not an endorsement, or a show of support of any kind. I think a Trump victory would be a horrible outcome.

So, why do I think Trump has more than a 50/50 chance? And what might the implications be if he wins?

The world is currently experiencing turbulent times economically and politically.

On the economic front, things look a little grim. Government debt as a percentage of GDP in America, Japan and at least nine other countries currently exceeds 100%, and other countries like the UK, Ireland, Spain, Canada and the EU are not far behind. Add to this the unprecedented levels of disruption to the workforce that will result when driverless technology automates millions of trucking jobs and technology like Kiva automates the work of millions of factory workers. High global debt levels combined with systemically higher unemployment levels are not two things that scream “economic stability and smooth sailing ahead”.

Politically, there appear to be more than a few explosives in the tinderbox. The UK held a referendum, the result of which will almost certainly see it leave the EU (and who knows which countries might follow).  The recent attack in Nice on Bastille day led to 84 deaths when an Islamic militant drove a truck through a crowd gathered to watch some fireworks (and this is just one in a series of attacks in France and Belgium in recent months). And militants in Turkey are now trying to stage a coup.

May we live in interesting times.

Trump has already surprised the analytical and political community in America by gaining enough delegates to win the Republican nomination. He is yet to be officially nominated but tensions are mounting. Politico reports that “nearly half of GOP insiders in key battleground states … believe there’s a good chance violence will break out around next week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland.”

In a short blog post that I published in June last year I mentioned that Donald Trump “… has announced his intention to run for the White House in 2016 … Trump is a master at manipulating media attention and getting people to talk about him …”

At that stage I thought of him merely as a reality TV star, someone who was entertaining, a famous self-promoter. The prospect of him running for President seemed like it would make for good television. Little did I consider or realise the hateful ideas he would put forth in order to whip his faithful followers into a frenzy.

As I said last June, Trump is a master of building the Trump brand. He has authored multiple books, and put his name on everything from high-rise buildings to golf courses and casinos. His years of effort in building a branding juggernaut appear to have created a seemingly unstoppable force. This view was acknowledged (and more comprehensively discussed) by Politico back in October last year.

The problem for Hillary (and the Republican candidates who Trump has already defeated) is that while she might be a strong candidate, Trump is a candidate backed by the power of a global brand that conjures an alluring tale of “unstoppable and never-ending success”. His followers are not merely supporting Trump’s candidacy, they are supporting his story. They are supporting the brand.

This might sound like a subtle distinction, but it’s not.

Let me give an example.

I recently attended a talk in Beijing entitled “Advising the Next U.S. President on China” given by Elizabeth Economy, Director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Ms Economy gave a wonderful speech and her view, along with the consensus in the room, was that a Trump victory would be truly unthinkable. However, despite her intellectual knowledge and conviction that Trump would be an absolute abomination, she couldn’t help smiling every time she mentioned Trump’s name.

This is extremely telling.

Trump is a man who is hurling hurtful and disgusting abuse at Mexicans, Muslims, judges, and anyone who would oppose him. And yet, when a well-meaning intellectual who opposes Trump’s candidacy mentioned his name in front of a packed audience, she smiled broadly every time.

This is not Ms Economy’s fault, but what it tells us is that the power of the Trump brand has infected even his staunchest opponents.

Intellectually she knows he is bad news, but even still she can’t resist.

And if thoughtful intellectual types are having trouble resisting Trump’s brand, what hope has everybody else?

If Trump does win, then what might the implications be for America?

Well, as I mentioned, we are living in turbulent times.

France has been in a state of emergency since the terrorist attacks in Paris last November, and plans to extend the state of emergency following the Bastille day attacks. What this means is that normal rules of law do not currently apply.

I am by no means an expert on the American political and legal system, however it is possible to imagine a similar state of emergency being called by Trump (following another inevitable terrorist attack). Conveniently, Trump might decide never to re-institute the normal rules of law and subsequently appoint himself as Emperor.

One of my colleagues here in Beijing is a Texan, and he explained to me that such a wild idea could never happen in reality because Congress would never allow it.

Maybe.

But, if the Bush family and Republican Party are collectively unable to prevent Trump from becoming the Republican nominee, then I really don’t think that Congress will be able to stand in Trump’s way.

[Please let me know your thoughts on this issue. Do you agree with me? Or are you strongly opposed?]

How Consultants Can Use Social Media to Brand Themselves

How Consultants Can Use Social Media to Brand Themselves

This is a guest post from Archie Ward, a business consultant and social media strategist. Archie splits his time each year between Asia and Australia. While he is hard at work helping other people make their businesses successful, he hopes to launch his own by year end.

Consultants rely on image as much as they do with any other form of credibility, and one of the avenues technology has provided for consultants to easily differentiate themselves from others in their field is through the use of social media.

There are several different platforms that consultants can use to develop their image and stand out from the competition, and utilising social media is a great first step. Self promotion is something that the most successful consultants all do.

Blogging

Improving personal branding through social media is an obvious first step for anyone looking to be a consultant. A consultant’s brand name is perhaps their most valuable asset, and building a blog with lots of great free content is a smart and scalable way to start building that brand.

Blogs are nothing new, but are one of the best ways for social media and personal branding to coexist.

If a consultant has a great online platform through a blog, then their work can be show cased to the world and potential customers will be able to view their knowledge of the industry as well as see the consultant’s work over time. Whenever a potential customer Googles the consultant’s name, it helps to have a well maintained website show up with all of the consultant’s past work.

Once you are ranking for your own name within Google, then you know that you can attract repeat visits from people you have met briefly at conferences or other functions. People tend to lose business cards, but if you make a real impression on someone, they will Google you, and you do want them to be able to find you with one click.

LinkedIn

Another great social media resource that consultants must use to brand themselves is LinkedIn.

Known as the largest network for professionals available today, LinkedIn has a lot of features that allow a person to show case their work in electronic form.

There are areas on a LinkedIn profile where a consultant can upload work from past projects. In addition, if a client is satisfied with the work completed by a consultant then there is an area where they can leave a recommendation. Having the ability to display real reviews from satisfied customers is a great way to improve the credibility and brand recognition of a consultant. In addition, there are also options to display different skills through the LinkedIn profile and have connections and former clients endorse for those skills. This is important because if a consultant is in the health care field, for example, and a potential client sees recommendations and endorsed skills in that area, then that will go a long way towards landing that client.

It all comes back to having a blog. Once you make that new post go live, you want to post it to LinkedIn, and make sure it’s posted to the types of groups that are able to find it useful. If you can have it read by just one influential person, and they feel compelled to share it, your social reach could explode over night.

Investing Time and Money

One thing that many consultants may notice at the beginning of their journey of using social media to brand themselves is that a significant amount of time and money are needed in order to get started. A social media strategy should be a well thought out plan that allows for the time and money investment required.

There are many different ways in which a consultant could wisely spend money and time on developing their social media strategy and building their platform. This might include taking classes on how to build a web site, on SEO techniques, understanding your Klout score, determining if it’s a worthwhile investment to get into Facebook advertising or re-marketing. Building an email list can become essential at one point, once you have a core group of followers.

What Adversity Can Teach You About Branding

When adversity strikes, branding gives you resilience

This guest post is by Ryan Currie. Ryan is a product manager at BizShark.com with 5 years experience in online marketing and product development. He is on the cutting edge of developments in emerging technologies and open source projects.

IN BUSINESS, branding is crucially important. If your business doesn’t have a brand, then you may as well be invisible.

Creating a brand is akin to designing a personality. Multi-national corporations can have a brand, as can a sole proprietor. The best thing about branding isn’t the notoriety, the creativity, or even the customers you gain from crafting a really terrific brand. In actuality, the best thing about a brand is the resilience it provides.

Adversity hits every company and every professional at some point. Just think of Apple’s struggle for survival in the 1990s. The question isn’t whether you’re going to face adversity or even when it’s going to occur. The real question is what you’re going to do when adversity strikes.

Consider the case of Kentucky Fried Chicken. A smash hit throughout the 70s and 80s, selling chicken literally by the bucketful. But when public attitudes shifted around 2000, Kentucky Fried started a rebranding process and is now known simply as “KFC”.

What Adversity Can Teach Us About Branding 2What’s interesting about the KFC case isn’t just the name change, but the evolution of the brand over the course of the last decade or so. When healthier attitudes struck, KFC did what most brands would do and tried to adapt. They initially offered grilled chicken breasts and an increased number of vegetable sides, pandering to a diet-savvy audience. Their efforts bombed.

What Adversity Can Teach Us About Branding 3KFC then decided to embrace their identity and become one of the only brands on the market to offer the opposite of health – enter the KFC Double Down, a fried chicken, cheese, and bacon monstrosity of a sandwich.

KFC is hardly the only company to take adversity by the horns and figure out a way to adjust its position in the market. Other companies have done so including Apple, J.C. Penny, Lego, and even Microsoft.

Every brand is malleable – that’s important to remember – but in adjusting a brand’s position it may not always be wise to pander to the newest customer trends. Brands that look outside the box (read: 20 Piece Bucket) and find intelligent ways to evolve their unique brand position tend to be more successful.

Adversity comes to all of us. Whether you’re a business owner, a job seeker, or an entrepreneur, branding should be at the forefront of your marketing efforts. Don’t be afraid of challenges to your brand…embrace them! You may find yourself a niche you never dreamed of, and that can make all the difference.

The Value of Top Business Schools

THERE MAY be a business school bubble for other people, but not for you.

Whether you are buying into a bubble depends on whether the cost of what you are buying significantly exceeds its intrinsic value. For most assets, you can find the intrinsic value by looking at the expected return – the more money the asset puts in your pocket, the more valuable it is. This works well for stocks and bonds but not quite as well for education, and rather poorly when that education is from a top business school which offers some very attractive non-monetary benefits:

  1. Personal branding derived from the brand name of your MBA school will stand by you for life. “Oh, you’re a Harvard graduate, good man, let me open some doors for you!”
  2. Social status derived from the prestige of your school may be a particular boon if you are a man. A first year psychology student once told me that women look for just two things in men (1) status and (2) resources.  (Given the cost of attending a top business school you had better work that social status to your advantage.)
  3. Networking with smart, well-connected, ambitious and successful business school students will help you discover new ideas and unforeseen opportunities.
  4. Positive emotions are contagious and by associating with the happy and fortunate people whom you find at business school you may be able to achieve more than you ever thought possible.