Well, that was a surprise. It’s fair to say that the whole world is doubled over in shock from last week’s presidential election, as America decided to elect a professional entertainer and businessman to the highest office in the land. Pushing aside the ethical and moral concerns (which there are loads of, so you’ll need a while), Trump’s campaign was almost hypnotising in the way that it completely subverted political norms in terms of discourse and rhetoric.
Light on facts, truth or policy, Trump and his team managed to tap in and connect with people. How did he get people to overlook his lack of qualifications or experience? There’s a hell of a lot of lessons to learn from what’s happened, but there are a few copywriting lessons in there too. Let’s have a look and try and get something good out of this at least!
More often than not, when you listen to politicians, the language they’re using seems inflated and can be inaccessible to large swathes of voters. Trump adopted very simplistic language in his speeches, in fact past and present candidates were ranked according to their speeches’ level of difficulty and Trump was using language attributed to a 4th grader’s reading level.
He’s using basic, punchy sentence structures and actionable language to guide people towards his conclusions; “We have a real problem”, “Everybody wins except us”, “We have to figure out what’s the problem”. His sentence and language choice is short and direct, which contrasts with the more complex, sophisticated sentence structures of other politicians. There is no misunderstanding or confusion; his sentences couldn’t be more to the point.
It’s effective at getting across clear messages that everyone can understand and that’s what brands need to do in a marketing capacity. Opening up your copy to as many people as possible means it’s inclusive and breaks down barriers. Simple structures reflect the way most people speak and brands need to speak the same language as their customers. Trump’s simple, clear rhetoric looks truthful to people and part of the ‘he tells it like it is’ bandwagon, in comparison to complex language from traditional politicians.
Trump’s language alone distanced him from ‘the establishment’.
One of the biggest strengths of Trump’s campaign (most unlikely sentence of the year award) was his ability to sidestep challenges to his policy ideas and make debates about feelings and not substance. He simply could not win on policy, so he had to steer the debate into the personal. “People are going to feel so proud”; this is just one example of Trump trying to connect with people on a human level and promote his ticket on the back of feelings and pure emotion. Even his slogan “Make America Great Again” taps into nostalgia for the past held by traditionalists and conservatives, or people who are not happy with the status quo.
Trump used emotive statements to such effect that he connected with people on a level that made them ignore detail, policy discrepancies and his own personal flaws, which is genius and flabbergasting in equal measure.
Creating content and copy that has an emotive edge and communicates something much bigger than just the words on a page is very effective. Writing meaningful copy can conjure feelings about products that people will buy into. If they want to buy into a mind-set or a positive feeling then the price is worth it.
The price in this case is the impact of Trump’s presidency.
Simplifying messages and making emotive statements is all very well from a marketing perspective. What’s not recommended is being inflammatory and discriminatory to large sections of your customer base. It’s also not a great idea to refrain from apologising, slam your competitors and never learn from your mistakes.
Trump captured elements of great copywriting, but his messages were often baseless, lacking in substance and factually incorrect. By all means, write simple, emotive copy but make sure it’s truthful and decent, otherwise before long your customers will realise it was all just a load of hot air.