Trump’s new nickname, ‘Rocket Man,’ for Kim Jong Un is brilliant

  • A ripple of shock rolled through Twitter and the media when President Trump called North Korea's Kim Jong Un "Rocket Man" on the floor of the United Nations.
  • But it's actually a brilliant strategy that works on so many levels.
  • Remember, this is the same kind of strategy he used to successfully denigrate Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, and others during the election.

A wave of shock rippled through Twitter and the media after President Trump called North Korean President Kim Jong Un a "Rocket Man" in his speech before the United Nations Tuesday.

"'Rocket man' made the TelePrompTer?!?!" "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd tweeted.

Another person wrote on Twitter that Trump's use of the term showed that he doesn't grasp the severity of the situation.

Oh, I think Trump knows EXACTLY what he is doing.

Remember when he ran against "Lyin' Ted" Cruz and "Little Marco" Rubio in the primaries? Then, when he beat all of his GOP contenders, he ran – and won – against "Crooked Hillary" Clinton in the presidential election.

Kim Jong Un might be using missiles as his weapon of choice but when President Trump goes into battle, his weapon of choice seems to be ridicule – and a catchy nickname to make it stick.

Trump first debuted the nickname "Rocket Man" on Twitter over the weekend but pulled it out again at the United Nations on Tuesday, saying in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly:

"No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That's what the United Nations is all about. That's what the United Nations is for. Let's see how they do."

Oh, it's hard to count the multitude of ways this new moniker in the Trump ridicule machine works on so many levels. It's insulting without being vulgar. It pigeonholes Kim down to his missile-test mania. And it's even the title of one of the most popular pop songs of all time making it so easy to remember, parody, and enjoy. So you know who's responsible when you hear "Rocket Man" on the radio even more than the usual 150 times per week right now.

President Trump may be the Commander-in-Chief, but he's really the Marketer-in-Chief. And he may now be on the verge of marketing Kim Jong Un right out of power.

Think about it: Kim Jong Un's most important commodity at his disposal is fear. That nuclear and missile program-created fear makes him a factor in a world that would otherwise not even care if he existed. Kim is certainly not loved outside his own country, and maybe not even in his own country, but he is not ignored or taken lightly.

Look for the president and the entire Trump team to start using this title when discussing Kim Jong Un more and more in the coming days and weeks. Trump's already made it clear that he's not afraid to use it anywhere — even on the floor of the United Nations.

This strategy stands in contrast to what seems like an unwarranted tradition of using the titles and honorifics enemy foreign leaders bestow upon themselves. For example, what is the purpose exactly of referring to Iran's theocratic dictator in presidential speeches as "supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?" What makes him the "supreme leader?" Was he elected democratically? Isn't "supreme" laying it on a little thick? You get the point.

Here in the U.S., it's always been very nice that when presidents run for re-election, even their opponents have traditionally referred to them as either "Mr. President," or used the "President" title before their last names every time. It's polite, but it's a heck of a concession to make to an opponent. And President Trump isn't likely to return the favor by using official titles if he's challenged by a sitting senator, governor, or other elected official in 2020.

"Kim Jong Un might be using missiles as his weapon of choice but when President Trump goes into battle, his weapon of choice seems to be ridicule – and a catchy nickname to make it stick."

The other brilliant marketing move President Trump used in his U.N. speech was repeating the term "America first" and explaining that idea in front of the entire world. That kind of naked patriotism may seem out of style in many parts of the world, but it's part of the branding that got Trump elected especially in heartland states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. And saying something as nationalist as "America first" in the very building where nationalism is supposed to be supplanted by international common ground is brilliant marketing from a president who won't ever stop branding and marketing himself.

If the U.N. weren't such an abject failure in its stated mission to stamp out nationalism and aggression, perhaps President Trump's words today would be an outrage. But the U.N. has failed to quell everything from North Korea's nuclear tyranny, Iran's funding of worldwide terror, a Syrian civil war that's left hundreds of thousands dead, Russia's bullying of its neighbors, and these are just the bad things that are happening this year.

Only a cloistered group of academics and self-important pundits would miss the fact that rhetorically defusing one of the world's most feared dictators by calling him "Rocket Man" is a winning move.

Getting a ridiculous name, along with the catchy song it evokes, to stick will be absorbed by the populace and will likely help Trump gain support from voters in whatever strategy he decides to implement against Kim Jong Un – even if it's something drastic like a removal strategy.

Think about it: If people have been saying "Rocket Man" and "suicide mission" around the water cooler for six months, they're going to be a lot less shocked if they hear something in the news about Trump wanting to take out Kim Jong Un – and a lot more supportive of the solution.

Donald Trump may still be a political neophyte. But he knows marketing and branding and, if we've learned anything in the past year, it's that it works.

Commentary by Jake Novak, senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.

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