Many, if not most, of us who are watching the American presidential campaign are bewildered.

We’re totally perplexed and confused at how an ignorant, racist, misogynist egomaniac like Donald Trump can possibly be competitive as a serious candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America. As I write this, Trump (44%) is trailing Hillary Clinton (49%) – but he could still win the election.

I was the campaign director for a national election campaign once. It was in 1993. Jean Chrétien won that election waving around his then-famous ‘Red Book’ of policies, platforms and commitments. Every time he opened his mouth, he said, “I’ve got the plan, I’ve got the team.”

Now, conventional wisdom says that to win a national election, you need to have a strong team to show the electorate that your people will govern capably. You also need a coherent set of policy and platform that sets priorities and lays out a public agenda worthy of the electorate’s support.

Trump has done none of this. He simply pops off as the mood strikes and (as we used to say in my political days) blows a lot of smoke out his ass.

How in the world can this possibly be? How can this boorish lightweight actually be a legitimate contender for the presidency just days before a nation’s votes are cast?

To find the answer, let’s cross the Atlantic Ocean and meet the man who can explain it to us.

His name is Colin Shaw. He’s the founder of a very cool and smart company called Beyond Philosophy. Colin Shaw has spent the last twenty years teaching companies all over the world how to grow their profits by creating better customer experiences. And, he figures out how to create better customer experiences by truly understanding customers.

Shaw is a brilliant blogger (I’ve been a subscriber for years) and has published at least four books on customer experience and building customer loyalty that actually works.

You could call Colin Shaw the customer whisperer – and you’d be justified in doing so. Not only that, it’s not much of a stretch to call him the voter whisperer and the donor whisperer because his principles apply, whether we’re buying, voting, or giving.

You see, to understand supermarket customers or presidential voters or charity donors, you’re simply trying to understand people. What makes us do the things we do? Why do some things influence us greatly, and other things not at all. Why do we behave the way we do?

The big mistake most of us make is that we assume that decisions are rational and made in the conscious brain – where in fact, most decisions are emotional and made in the subconscious heart. If you’ve heard me speak at a conference lately, you’ve probably heard me go on about the instinctive brain, the emotional brain and the rational brain. We think we do things rationally with our logical brains whereas the opposite is most often true.

But back to Colin Shaw and his genius for understanding customer behavior. In his new book The Intuitive Customer, he outlines what he calls 7 Imperatives That Move Customer Experience.

his 1st imperative explains the Donald Trump phenomenon perfectly!

Shaw’s first imperative is “recognize that customers decide emotionally and then justify rationally”.

That’s right – most of your donors are NOT giving to you because of your charts and graphs. They’re not giving to you because you’ve made a strong case that makes them THINK you’re worthy of their support. Rather, you’ve done something (probably told them a story) that makes them FEEL that they care about your cause and want to help.

Donald Trump is the first major political candidate in the history of the world to simply ignore the rational mind and go straight for the emotional impulse. And I for one am impressed at how well he’s doing it.

To me, there are four primary emotions, just as there are three primary colours. These emotions are our ancient brain software from our hunter/gatherer days. This programming was put (prominently) into our brains to help us survive:

  • Happiness is the reward emotion. We feel happy when we’ve done something that helps us survive – like eat a Sunday dinner or find a $20 bill on the street.
  • Sadness is an unpleasant emotion we feel when we’ve lost something or someone (like a child) important to our survival. We have this feeling so that we’ll act in ways not to lose important people or things in the future.
  • Anger is our turbo boost to fight for something that’s ours and that someone else wants. If you’re in a barroom fight, that other guy wants your blood and teeth on the floor!
  • Fear (with its accompanying shot of adrenaline) gives us a boost to run from something that threatens us – like a saber-toothed tiger on the path in front of your cave.

Trump’s entire success has been founded upon pushing two emotional buttons – fear and anger. That’s it – that’s all.

A lotof people in the USA feel insecure financially. They are, for the most part, members of what I would call ‘the blue collar middle class’. People are afraid for their jobs, retirement savings, health insurance (provided at work). If they haven’t lost these things yet, they’re afraid they will soon.

These people feel lost, afraid, and angry. They’re looking for hope and answers. So what does Trump offer?

Let’s blame it on China. Want another scapegoat? We can also blame Mexican immigrants. Still not done? Let’s blame all the Washington insiders who are corrupt and criminal and lining their own pockets while ordinary people suffer.

Trump plays on people’s fears. Fear of their economic future. Fear of change. Fear of un-Christian. Fear of not being good enough. And, does it brilliantly.

Then, he pivots on the fear and exhorts anger. Let’s build a Mexican Wall and make the bastards pay for it. That’ll keep the banditos and rapists out of our back yard. Let’s kick the Chinese in the groin and take back our jobs. Let’s send gays and lesbians back to the closet and women back to the kitchen.

I guess it’s time to make my point…

The point is: Donald Trump has proven Colin Shaw to be right. Trump has shown us all that people decide emotionally and then justify rationally.

Donald Trump has done every fundraiser a huge favour. Because if you understand this lesson, you’ll start connecting with your prospects and donors on a much more emotive basis. You’ll tell great stories. You’ll use real voices. You’ll make your audiences laugh and cry and grimace and gasp.

Because philanthropy, like politics (and life itself!) is an emotional ride…