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What Lessons Can Airlines CEO’s Learn from the Election of Donald Trump?

What Lessons Can Airlines CEO’s Learn from the Election of Donald Trump?


To paraphrase Seth Godin, the prolific and bestselling author of Tribes, marketing helps to sell products, marketing also helps to elect presidents.

As you well know, US presidential elections get worldwide attention, mainly because of the leadership role the USA has assumed on the world stage since World War I. And following the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, the recent 2016 election was undoubtedly the most defining and historic moment for many reasons, which are beyond the scope of this article.

The prevailing view has always been that for a candidate to win a US presidential election, the person has to have been previously elected to the Congress, the Senate or as the Governor of a given State. Therefore, on that premise, most of us thought that the outcome of the recent US presidential election was known well in advance. To Secretary Hillary Clinton, her supporters and mainstream media, November 8, 2106 was going to be a formality. Yet, the results revealed the exact opposite.

Donald Trump, the outsider, the novice in US politics won the election, fair and square, without the full support of his party nor any presidential endorsements. To use Nassim Nicholas Taleb terms, this is clearly a black swan event, and as such deserves close attention and analysis. You may or may not like Mr. Trump. You may appreciate his viewpoints or you may hate them with passion. However, there is a fact that we cannot deny: tens of millions of American people flocked to the polls to elect him. So there is certainly something of value we can all learn from his first and successful political campaign.

Different opinions are being shared about the possible implications of Mr. Trump being elected when it comes to internal US affairs and international relations. Considering the fact that many analyses and polls published before the election turned out to be wrong, it is safe to assume that most of post-election comments are mostly speculations until Donald Trump unveils his game plan. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to avoid similar speculations, especially pertaining to the aviation industry and instead identify some useful lessons in terms of marketing, communications and sales.

  • Know your customers and their expectations
  • Be fully sold on your unique value proposition
  • Communicate directly with clarity, passion and authenticity


  1. Know your customers and their expectations

Firstly, Donald Trump came up with two short yet powerful phrases or motto, which would appeal to anyone who felt they have had enough of the so-called establishment or status quo. “Make America Great Again” and “Put America First”. Intuitively, this was not about Mr. Trump, it was about his audience, America. Therefore, anyone who deeply feels a connection with the Great America he was referring to, would naturally feel to belong to his audience or movement as he called it.

  1. Be fully sold on your unique value proposition

Secondly, let’s agree that everyone else may have been surprised about the outcome of the election, but certainly not Donald Trump. As a successful entrepreneur, he knew what he was doing. Furthermore, he put in the effort and energy required to win. Mr. Trump repeated several times on the campaign trail: “We are going to win, because we know how to win.” And nothing suggested from the tone of his voice or his body language that he had any doubts about what he was saying. Moreover, Mr. Trump persevered where and when most of us would have given up.

Although, most prominent voices were raised to suggest that he was not qualified to lead the country, Donald Trump stayed on course and fought his way to the White House as the 45th President of the United States of America.

  1. Communicate directly with clarity, passion and authenticity

Thirdly, Donald Trump knew where to find and interact with his audience. Thus, he chose the most appropriate mix of communication channels and shared his message with passion in a non-traditional way.  He spent far less on political ads, bypassed mainstream media, which he openly accused of being biased and instead relied heavily on direct selling through public meetings and social media.

He could not count on celebrity endorsements to win. For instance, no former US president came forth to endorse him. Moreover, former candidates and prominent members of his own party denounced and disavowed him publicly. When it came to the clarity of his message, Mr. Trump did not bother polishing what he had to say: “he was telling it like it is.” And although he has been accused many times of being ignorant about politics and foreign affairs, he came across as being more authentic and closer to his audience: America.

Not everyone agreed nor was pleased with the type of language he occasionally used nor some of the things he said during the campaign. However, the final results are there to prove beyond any reasonable doubts that Donald Trump was heard loud and clear. The majority of American voters have bought into his vision of the Great America he endeavored to sell them.


As mentioned earlier, many things could be said about the recent US presidential election, which led to the victory of Donald Trump, however let’s stop here. We hope that you have drawn your own conclusions and key lessons from Mr. Trump’s successful campaign, which can be applied to everyday business especially the airline business, which is in need of rethinking. Moreover, this election serves as a strong reminder that nothing can be won in advance and that in final analysis, the customer is the ultimate boss who decides what to spend time, energy and sometimes money on.

Finally, here are some parting questions to summarize the essence of this article. Does the vision statement of your airline portray the customer as being at the center of everything you do? Do you feel that your airline’s value proposition is unique enough to appeal to the customer? Do you know where to find your prospect customers and what communication and marketing channels can reach them more effectively? Do you communicate what your airline stands for directly with clarity, passion and authenticity?

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Copyright 2016 Airline Profits
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Kofi Sonokpon

Kofi Sonokpon

Managing Editor of Airline Profits, the first aviation magazine devoted to improving airline effectiveness and profitability, Kofi Sonokpon has more than 20 years of international experience in aviation. Kofi holds an IATA sponsored Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Air Transport Management from the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal. Kofi Sonokpon is a speaker, an airline business thought-leader, and author an innovative book series intended for the 21st century airline, namely Airlines for Business and Airlines for Technology.