The marketing theory that explains why Trump owns the GOP

“Trump’s skill,” Reed told me, “is really creating identity loyalty in his rhetoric and branding/symbols.”

Such connection with consumers, any marketer will tell you, is incredibly difficult to achieve. But when forged, Reed explains, it can be remarkably powerful, leading followers into motivated reasoning, where they “see the world in ways that are consistent with what it is that [they] want to believe.”

The startling power of motivated reasoning was demonstrated in a 2012 study from Monika Lisjak and colleagues at Kellogg School of Management (she’s now at Arizona State University). Typically, when consumers are exposed to negative comments about a brand, their view of the brand is likely to go down.

But what Lisjak discovered was that in the specific circumstance where a consumer (a) has a strong connection with a brand; (b) has a weak sense of who they are (“low implicit self-esteem”); (c) has just been prodded by the experimenter to think about positive characteristics about themselves (“self-activation”), this consumer is apt to evince more positive views of the brand after its been criticized.