• Trump’s Winning Campaign

    By Eugene Chuang on December 15 , 2016

    Mr Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States.

    Love him or hate him, Trump’s mastery of communication has many lessons for the industry. Let’s look at how the president-elect sold himself purely from a marketing standpoint.

    Simpler language resonates

    Studies show that the human brain does not have time for complex facts and figures. So, as branding practitioners, we keep words simple and sentences succinct. Given the target audience, Trump’s choice of words and sentence structure were key in shaping his relatable and non-elitist image.

    The man seldom uses words more than three syllables long and has a love for crude words like ‘bigly’ to get his message across efficiently (yes, bigly is a word in the dictionary). Trump takes it one step further by sacrificing proper sentence structure in verbal communication. A good example is his interview with prominent night show host Jimmy Kimmel earlier this year on a controversial proposal (watch till 1:40 when Jimmy interrupts).

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=Sqhg2FNzKHM%23t%3D38

    Watched it? Here’s a breakdown:

    1. Trump responded in 220 words
    2. 78% of the words were one syllable long
    3. 17% were two syllables long
    4. Only four words were four syllables long and temporary was shortened to tem-pry.
    5. Strange sentence structure was used, but you probably didn’t notice it

    Did he answer the question? Maybe not. But to the man on the street, it didn’t matter if Trump’s response made little sense. In the end, simpler language resonates.

    Winning words, winning taglines

    We need to be tougher. We need to be stronger. We need to build a wall. We don’t win anymore. Drain the swamp. Lock her up. Make America Great Again.

    If one was asked to recall a tagline from Trump’s campaign, it will probably be one of these.

    Repeating and going back to key messages are a key part of public communication, and Trump is adept at this. During a rally speech in Denver, Colorado, the real estate mogul repeated the word win times in 90 seconds. This might sound silly but it’s effective. It is also the reason many companies use jingles. The human mind doesn’t consciously know how it forms an opinion, but once an opinion is seeded, the mind tends to defend it, regardless of how it got there.

    The slogan “Make America Great Again” was well crafted. It evoked feelings of nostalgia among Americans and was among the most highly trending hashtags in social media. Hillary’s branding paled in comparison. Her campaign “Stronger Together” tagline was strikingly similar to the “Stronger In” slogan used by the Remain campaign in the Brexit referendum. Her hashtag #ImWithHer appeared self-centred and Trump’s campaign simply countered it with #HesWithYou.

    Trump also picked apart his opponents by branding them exactly how they don’t want to be seen. Weak Jeb, Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, Crooked Hillary, Trump often repeated these phrases on air. While name-calling seems juvenile, they were effective in throwing his opponents into disrepute. Better yet, Trump’s supporters started adopting these names as their own, effectively putting the final nail in the coffin for the political aspirations of his rivals.

    Harnessing negative emotions

    Fear is an incredibly powerful and raw emotion. It captures our attention and shuts down higher thinking as we focus on protecting ourselves. Creaking noises at night might lead us to think that paranormal activity, rather than the wind, is the culprit. Likewise, Trump’s claim that Mexicans crossing the border are bringing crime might not necessarily be true, but it evokes a degree of fear in the hearts of his listeners. This is why fear ads are widely adopted to highlight social issues such as gambling, smoking, and domestic violence.

    Another emotion is anger. When Trump says that China is taking jobs, or when the US doesn’t win in trade, he’s forcing the listener to make a choice. You are being anti-American when you disagree with him, even if it doesn’t make any statistical sense.

    A point for reflection

    Trump and his team executed one of the greatest political PR movements in recent years. No matter who we support, humans are irrational and emotional decision makers and the right mix of communication tactics is key to a winning campaign. When we understand this, we can better influence others.

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