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Galloway on Debate: Expect Trump to 'flex' while Biden should pitch himself as 'comfort food' to a country that feels sick

Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden will face off tonight in the first of three presidential campaign debates. NYU Professor of Marketing Scott Galloway joins Yahoo Finance’s On The Move panel to discuss.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: One of the people who will be watching that debate tonight, Scott Galloway, NYU Professor of Marketing joining us now from New York City. Scott, I presume you're going to watch the debate tonight, but I'm curious what impact, if any, does a debate have on people's opinions? Or does it just reinforce-- is it confirmation bias?

SCOTT GALLOWAY: Well, it depends on the debate. If you look at Reagan and Carter, people look back and say that that was the pivotal moment when Reagan came across as less of a threat, and more stable, and more presidential and shot ahead of Carter and never-- never gave up that lead. To Jessica's point, even if 14% are undecided and Biden were to have a bad night, and let's say Trump were to get 10 of those 14 points, that's a six-point swing, which by-- by the math in most poll-- most polls still puts Biden in the White House.

So I would argue this is one of the most interesting debates we've ever had because of the situation, but one of the least consequence-- one of the least consequential. What it does is create a halo, though, around red versus blue. A lot of people use the feeling they have for the Democratic Party versus the Republican Party to vote up and down the ticket.

So it's important. It's the first time they'll have shared the stage. Whether or not we look back on it and see it as a pivotal moment in terms of the outcome of the election, the math appears to say no, that it's probably more-- more chip than salsa, so to speak, Adam.

JULIE HYMAN: Scott, I'm curious, as somebody who knows a lot about marketing and branding, it seems to me that Donald Trump's brand is pretty clear at this point. What about Joe Biden? What is his brand? Because it seems to be less well-defined. And even if this debate tonight is not hugely consequential, could he use it to define his brand a little bit better?

SCOTT GALLOWAY: That's an interesting point. So you're right. Trump's brand-- and what I think he should do tonight if I were advising Trump, would-- it would simply put me strong like bull, me strong. You know, I am decisive. You may not like me, but I am unafraid. I say what I think and, you know, flex.

And then with Biden I think what you have is someone who says, look, the brand positioning there is I'm the adult in the room. I'm the America where you can stop thinking about the presidency and the controversy, where you can trust that other-- other talented, middle-of-the-road, steady-as-she-goes people are in charge. So he's-- he's comfort food, if you will, for a country that feels sick and exhausted. He is the chicken soup to the pandemic, the virus-ridden chaos that I think a lot of people are exhausted by.

I think the key theme for Biden tonight is what Democratic presidential candidate Senator Michael Bennet said in one of the debates, and that is, if I win president, you will not have to think about me. I'll make sure that your preexisting conditions are covered, I will handle North Korea, and you will not have to think about me. I think America is just exhausted. So Trump is, you know, going to flex, me strong like bull. And Biden wants to say I'm chicken soup for the soul and for the country here, and we'll all get back to some sense of normalcy.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Yeah, but chicken soup without salt, which a lot of the elderly go for, is not especially appetizing. Let me ask you this from a marketing perspective, at this point in the election, let's be real. Who is not undecided? These people on TV who keep saying they're undecided, I want to throw something at the TV. Really?

SCOTT GALLOWAY: Yeah. It's hard to imagine. These-- these candidates are probably better known at this point and have had more coverage-- I mean, Biden, obviously, we got to know over eight years. Trump, we get to know every eight minutes in 140 characters. So it's hard to imagine two figures who've run for president that are better known than these two.

I was just shocked when Elon Musk said in an interview with my podcast co-host Kara Swisher that he was undecided. I thought, how at this point-- these two are so different. What we know about each of them is so different, the notion that you're undecided, quite frankly, means that you've been in a coma, in my view.

And I think those 14% who say they're undecided, I'm just trying to-- do you know anybody that's undecided? Even people who I think claim to be undecided have probably already made up their mind and are just being recalcitrant lovers and want to be pitched or sold. But we have never had two individuals who-- two presidential candidates who have been better known at this point.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, Scott, I think I may agree with you on that. You have to wonder whether somebody who actually claims that they're undecided is, in fact, undecided. One question here, though, on the issues, it has been interesting to see how Joe Biden, despite what's playing out right now, has consistently lagged on the economic issue. Why do you think that's still the case? And what does he need to do in this debate to turn the conversation?

SCOTT GALLOWAY: Yeah, generally speaking, people see Trump as being very focused on business, lower taxes. People think of him as a businessman. People think of Biden as a career public servant, so people just naturally believe that Donald Trump would be better for the economy. But it's the only place he leads, and he leads by a small margin.

If I were Biden, I would go out-- I would steal his thunder. I would go after fiscal policy. I would probably say that the stimulus, while needed, is going to the wrong people, that we had the highest savings rate in the history of America last quarter, which means that the stimulus, a lot of the stimulus is getting to people who don't need it. I also think Biden has a real opportunity to, right out of the gate, say, we are a nation of peaceful protests, but we're a nation of laws and come across as the law and order Democrat, because I think that's where Trump will try and go.

Because I think the Trump campaign is banking that Americans will elect a criminal over enduring criminality. And I think Biden has an opportunity to come out and say, we are going to arrest people who damage property or in any way participate in violence. If I were Biden, I would come out and perhaps aggravate and antagonize some of his base.

But at this point, they have no option. I think he needs to pivot hard to the middle and to come across as the law and order guy and steal Trump's-- Trump's thunder. And also, fiscal responsibility, the Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility.

JULIE HYMAN: Oh, wouldn't that be a switch? Scott--

SCOTT GALLOWAY: Yes.

JULIE HYMAN: I want to ask you about the stimulus package, speaking of fiscal responsibility, you mentioned it. The Dems have a new $2.2 trillion proposal that they introduced late yesterday with stimulus checks. And you talked about the stimulus not necessarily getting to people who need it. I mean, you track tech-- the tech industry very closely, which appears to be thriving, both in real life and in the markets, and yet we do see the divide widening. How is all of that going to play out, and especially if stimulus doesn't get done?

SCOTT GALLOWAY: Well, look, Julie, we've talked about this. I think, in retrospect, this-- these stimulus, PPP packages will be seen as a hate crime against future generations. The only thing that passes for bipartisanship in Washington now is reckless spending.

And I think what you want to do with stimulus is ensure that people aren't afraid, that they're not afraid that they can't feed their kids, that they don't feel as if they have to put themselves in harm's way because they have to go to work as an Uber driver or in a factory where they don't feel safe. But the notion that we are just going to spread, we're just going to drop off stimulus on every doorstep-- and, again, to my previous point, the highest savings rate in the world on record happened last quarter. So if you think about it, if you just took the lower half, the lower medium of income-earning households in America, if you took the 52 million least-- or I don't want to say poorest, but most economically disadvantaged households, and you have $3 trillion in stimulus, that's $60,000 per household.

You can-- you can assuage a lot of fears and a lot of food insecurity. But to just drop off money on front of every doorstep, in my opinion, is just reckless. I would argue that all we have done here is flatten the curve for rich people, and we smear Vaseline over this lens or put lipstick on this cancer of reckless spending. Because some of it does get to the right people, but I think history will show that the majority of the stimulus did nothing but flatten the curve for people who are already rich and didn't need the stimulus such that our future generations could pay for a flattening of the curve of wealthy people.