Was Trump's M.A.D. Communication key in the road to the White House?


Renowned 20th century inventor and visionary R. Buckminster Fuller once said - “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

In June 2015, Donald Trump made an announcement that shocked, outraged and in some cases amused the global community, namely that he would run for the Presidency of the United States of America. The billionaire businessman and TV reality star would go on to achieve this unlikely ambition, dumbfounding his critics who had passed him off as an opportunist. So how did Trump receive such victory?

By considering the Message, Audience, Delivery (M.A.D.) concept, we can explore how Trump communicated his campaign and achieved his goal of becoming The President of United States. 

Message – a leader must craft a compelling message by exploring what impact they wish to have and the key points they want to make. Identify and avoid content that is bland and develop content that inspires and ignites.

Trump achieved these elements with his campaign slogan, Make America Great Again!’- 4 simple words that resonated in the hearts of millions of Americans. By implying both pessimism and optimism, Trump tapped into people’s emotions and provided a vision of change for America. His message revealed the deep anger and hostility many Americans felt towards the political system and provided them with hope for a brighter future for their country.

Audience- a leader must understand their audience: What are their needs? What do they want to hear? What are they afraid to hear? What are their biases?

3 principles of effective communication that could increase audience engagement: Understand (cognitive), Care (emotional) and Can (behavioural). When communicating with his audience, Trump particularly focused on the ‘Care’ element – he ensured that his audience experienced an emotional reaction to his campaign messages. With research indicating that emotions drive 80% of the choices Americans make, while practicality and objectivity only represent about 20% of decision-making,1 it seems that Trump had the right idea in focusing on emotion more than logic. Aware that a large number of his audience were blue-collar workers, Trump tapped into their emotions around unemployment, illegal immigration and terrorism, a tactic that proved to be successful.

Delivery- a leader must explore and practise methods of effective delivery: use powerful language that influences and persuades people and then perform in a convincing manner.

Throughout the election, Trump’s delivery style was viewed by many as out of control and insulting. However, there is no arguing that his use of emotionally charged language seemed to play a crucial role in shaping public opinion around many of the issues surrounding globalisation. Trump’s “us versus them” rhetoric appealed to his audience, with many agreeing with his statements that foreign countries are “stealing” American jobs and because of this “America is losing all over the world” in trade. He gave those who needed someone to blame a reason to vote for him and in doing so defied all the odds.

In a year of surprises, with Britain leaving the EU and Donald Trump now President of the United States, it seems that around the world individuals are becoming more willing to take a risk and choose the more unpredictable option to facilitate change. Trump bridged the gap between people and politicians, creating a compelling message, appealing to his audiences’ needs and delivering a convincing campaign to the American population. His challenge will now be to repair the division and bring people together. Can he move from confrontational to collegiate and unify a divisive country?


1Michael Levine 2012, ‘Logic and Emotion – Delving into the logical and emotional sides of the human brain’.


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