Donald Trump’s machinations are routinely described as “shocking” and “revolutionary” by political observers. They claim he has “reinvented modern politics.” And maybe he has.
But when you remove Trump’s (and to a certain degree, Bernie’s) actions from the context of campaigns and elections, they are neither shocking nor revolutionary. Certainly not to us business and marketing types, who have seen Gary Vaynerchuk use very similar tactics as career propellants.
You may be able to come up with more (leave them in the comments) but here are 11 similarities between The Donald and The Gary. Did Trump go to school on Vaynerchuk’s style? Or vice versa? Or just a lot of coincidences?
Regardless, these 11 parallels are striking:
They Speak With You Instead of At You
I’ve come into contact with a lot of people over the years who have interacted with Gary Vaynerchuk at some point. They all same the same thing: “I know Gary Vaynerchuk.” They never say, “I’ve met Gary Vaynerchuk.”
This is because Gary (and Donald Trump) share a superpower in their ability to make people feel like they are having a private conversation with them, even in a crowded room. This is the gift of intimacy through attention, and it’s a rare one. (Chris Brogan has it too.)
They all are incredibly present and in-the-moment when interacting with others and it creates a visceral, lasting impact.
They Use Simple Language
Authenticity isn’t a vocabulary contest.
Gary and The Donald are incredibly bright individuals, but they intentionally use unadorned language at all times. They make their points without flourish and doing so enables them to reach a larger audience and connect on a “real world” level. In a sense, they knock themselves off their own pedestals through simplified linguistics.
Last week, I read two articles about candidates’ perspectives on America’s debt. Trump said something like, “The debt is out of control. I’ll renegotiate it!” Straightforward and authoritative. Hillary Clinton, when told about Trump’s statement said something like, “We cannot modify our longstanding commitments to debt holders. The full faith and credit of the United States is not a bargaining tool.” A huge difference. One talks like you talk. The other talks like a politician.
(For more on this particular point, I recommend reading Josh Bernoff’s extraordinary blog, Without Bullshit, and his forthcoming book.)
They Are Profane
On a related note, both Trump and Vaynerchuk consistently use profanity in unexpected settings (politics, and on stage at events). Doing so further humanizes each man, adds to their auras of authenticity, and supports the maverick positioning each has adopted.
They Hate Sacred Cows
I have watched Gary Vaynerchuk lay waste to full auditoriums of successful businesspeople whose belief in their own preconceptions about marketing had never been challenged. In minutes, he shows them that they do not know what they think they know, but then proceeds to recruit them to embrace his way of thinking.
Trump, of course, does the exact same thing. Not only is he unafraid to speak out about policies or protocols that have become status quo, you could argue he has built an entire movement (for good or ill, depending upon your perspective) by taking on formerly sacred cows.
They Use Twitter Masterfully
Donald Trump is to Twitter what Steph Curry is to the 3-point line: simply the best ever. Before Trump, no candidate, politician, celebrity, or athlete has been able to create and/or shift the cycle of online and traditional news day after day with their own tweets.
Gary has largely moved his attention to Snapchat and Youtube these days, but there’s no question that he first burst onto the scene partially as a result of his masterful use of the Twitter platform. He is also a Twitter investor.
Vaynerchuk is a master of engagement, spending hour and hour replying to tweets from fans. He recently critiqued Trump’s broadcast-only style on Twitter in a FORTUNE article. “His social is 100% wrong in a lot of ways. The problem is, it’s working,” said Gary.
Video Made Them Famous
Trump had been known for decades in the United States at the “B” or “B minus” level. But it wasn’t until The Apprentice that he became a household name and an A-lister.
Gary didn’t start with a television show (although his more recent appearances on Today, CNBC, etc have certainly helped introduce him to a larger, non-marketing audience). Instead, Gary first got known in the most postmodern way possible: hosting his own Youtube show.
In 1,000 episodes of Wine Library TV, Gary developed his persona and honed many of the skills identified in this post. He also built the template that eventually became his current hit Web show, podcast, and book – Ask Gary Vee.
They Use Symbols to Activate Their Tribes
The “Make America Great Again” hat is a crime against haberdashery, but is nevertheless a near-ubiquitous presence on the noggins of Trump supporters. Available for sale at Trump rallies and online, the screaming red cap is the symbol of belonging for the Trump brigade.
Gary Vaynerchuk used the exact same tactic in his Wine Library TV days, with loyal watchers (like me) clamoring to buy or win the coveted series of wristbands that proved you were a true Vayniac.
They Think They Are Right And Will Tell You So
Neither man is shy – at all – about proclaiming their own greatness. I could link about 1,423 evidentiary video clips here, but that’s unnecessary.
It is fascinating, however, that certainty of your own certitude can be interpreted as a desirable character trait when so many of us were taught humility was the default setting.
They Pay Attention to Critics
Reflexively, Trump lashes out at negativity about him, his policies, his hand size, or any other perceived slight. And he remembers those who “attacked” him forever. Former Esquire editor Grayson Carter says a mention of Trump’s allegedly short fingers many years ago resulting in dozens of letters from The Donald with photos demonstrating to the contrary.
Gary Vaynerchuk cares deeply about his critics too. In fact, when I interviewed him for my new book, Hug Your Haters, he said that he used to spend more time interacting with fans but now focuses more effort on learning from critics.
Both of these guys are bothered by criticism. At least Vaynerchuk accepts and tries to learn from it. Trump seems to believe any questions about his awesomeness are categorically invalid.
They Took Over Their Father’s Business
Gary Vaynerchuk has stated many times that his success is due in part to having “perfect parents” – a demanding father and mother with unconditional love. Famously, Gary took over his father’s liquor store, built it into a regional booze behemoth, started a wine video show, started a digital agency, became a tech investor, and catapulted to business fame.
Famously, Donald Trump inherited a decent chunk of cash from his father, the real estate developer Fred Trump. The amount of that inheritance is a matter of much debate. Donald Trump’s first big Manhattan deal was taking over a sketchy, nearly derelict hotel at Grand Central Station and turning it into a Grand Hyatt. This begat hundreds of other real estate projects, a foray into professional sports, and a dizzing array of licensing deals. Which brings us to the final similarity:
They Are Masters of Spinoffs
Donald Trump runs a licensing company as much or more so than a real estate company. From Trump water to Trump steaks to Trump hotels to the much-debated Trump University, and from Apprentice to Celebrity Apprentice to Apprentice All-Stars, Donald Trump understands spinoffs and how to milk a cow.
Gary Vaynerchuk is similarly gifted and inclined. Wine Library TV begat not just wristbands, but its own wine, a book, and the Cinderella Wine flash deals website. Now, his Ask Gary Vee video show is also a podcast, a book, and spun off the very successful, documentary-style video project The Daily Vee.
What did I miss? What other similarities are there between these two striking, successful individuals?
(Note for commenters: This is not about politics and I don’t care whether you do or do not support Donald Trump. Please keep comments on point and above board.)