Dec 2, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Trump, the marketer in chief

Illustration of President Trump behind his desk with a placard that reads "Marketer-In-Chief".

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Impeachment is bringing out President Trump's instincts as marketer in chief, as he seeks to turn a perilous, shame-inducing inquiry into an aggressive fundraising and mobilization tool.

Why it matters: Democrats competing for the chance to challenge Trump in the general election are getting a preview of how he may seek to upend and monetize their arguments against him.

The big picture: From merchandise to rally rhetoric to paid media strategy, a campaign official tells Axios that a lot of the ideas for responses are being generated by Trump himself.

  • His nearly three years on the job have helped him become an expert in framing his own missteps to his advantage.
  • While half the country already supported impeaching Trump and removing him from office, recent polling for CNN shows Democrats weren't able to expand that to a clearer majority after two weeks of public impeachment hearings. His backers see that as evidence that his counter-messaging has helped hold the line.

Merchandise: Recent additions to the Trump campaign's merchandise store include "Bull-Schiff" t-shirts demonizing House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, and "Where's Hunter?" t-shirts mocking former Vice President Joe Biden's son.

  • Sources close to Trump's re-election campaign say the recent impeachment-focused merchandise has sold well and given the team an added bonus of tracking additional data about Trump supporters.

Facebook: The Trump campaign has been blitzing Facebook with ads urging supporters to "sign up" to fight impeachment.

  • The Trump campaign alone has spent nearly $2 million on impeachment ads on Facebook since Sept. 28, according to data from Bully Pulpit Interactive.

TV: Republicans have spent $6.8 million on impeachment ads on television since Oct. 1, while Democrats have collectively spent $4.7 million, per Advertising Analytics.

  • Trump will air a reelection ad on Fox [Corrected] during the 2020 Super Bowl, per two sources familiar with the ad buy.
  • His campaign declined to comment on whether it would invest in further sports ads, but it made a similar ad buy during Game 7 of the this year's World Series.

Rallies: Trump has railed against impeachment at his rallies in the weeks since Democrats launched their impeachment inquiry.

The bottom line: This is classic Trump. He's continuing to upend traditional norms — and his base loves it.

Go deeper: The Trump show: a new drama

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