Trump. No one expected this, because, most of the time, Trump doesn’t make a lot of sense. He lambasts the American job losses from Chinese manufacturing while selling made-in-China Trump merchandise. His financial ideas can be summed up as, “I’m rich, put me in charge” and his policies are so impractical and lacking in substance that it’s laughable. So why is he connecting so strongly with so many people?
All feelings, all the time
Trump has hit upon an overriding theme that so strongly connects with his followers that the detail of his speeches, opinion, or policy doesn’t matter. Jonathan Haidt’s theory of post-hoc rationalisation fits perfectly here. Trump supporters are making instinctive decisions – Trump is different to the politicians who I deeply distrust, he will be good for us, Trump is the right choice – and then post-rationalising it: ‘he’s a successful businessman’, or ‘he tells it like it is’ or ‘he isn’t swayed by political pressures’.
Whether by accident or because he some kind of political genius, his campaign has been all feelings, with very little substance. And that’s the genius of it. If you get the chance to watch him in debate or in speeches, notice how he stays on theme, even if it means making completely illogical replies. America, he always replies, is not the winner country it should be, and here’s who to blame.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing particularly stupid or thoughtless about Trump supporters. Haidt’s, and other, research shows that this is the way all humans make decisions, howevereducated and wherever we are on the political spectrum. Our brains are just wired this way.
Brand experts, marketers and political strategists know this instinctively, even if they can’t quote the science. They know that people choose one brand over another, or one candidate over another because it feels right. Their rational brain then fills in the gaps to justify that choice.
Write about emotions, not reasons
It’s why when I’m talking to clients I’m always looking for what gives them their emotional edge. Practical considerations are useful to back up people’s instinctive decisions, but they won’t be the real reason why your clients choose you.
Take a look at https://www.squirrel.co.nz/. They’re a mortgage brokerage and they’re growing really, really fast. We worked alongside them in their early days when they were setting a brand tone. Their approach is about always being on the side of the buyer – an advocate, friend and trusted advisor. In an overwhelmingly fast-moving market where the ‘experts’ (the banks and the real estate agents) are incentivised to favour sellers, that idea really resonates. Home buyers – whether they’re just starting out, or buying a portfolio – are scared. These are big-stakes decisions, with huge money and huge emotions involved.
Although Squirrel brokers are genuinely brilliant people, that’s not what they focus on. They work on making things feel less stressful and less scary. They have useful, friendly graphics, and avoid the big words you’ll see on bank websites. They make jokes, they use slang, and they demonstrate that they live in the real world.
Getting into your first home doesn’t need to be stressful. We’ll arm you with all the info, help you steer clear of the traps and go into bat for you with the banks (not with an actual bat, but we’ve come close).
This is Squirrel’s secret – they place at least as much importance on the emotional messages they’re sending as the messages that talk about why they’re ‘better’ than other brokers.
B&B Plumbing are the same. They’re a fantastic company; one you can really, really trust with your trades work, but just telling people that isn’t enough. Because guess what? Every other plumber in town is saying that stuff too. In fact, you know the people you trust? The ones who are confident enough to expect that their professionalism and expertise will be accepted as moot. That’s what we did with B&B .“Changing the world, one toilet at a time.
We don’t wear undies on the outside, but we still get called heroes.
Our award-winning team has rescued people from indoor waterfalls, drains that aren’t exactly draining and toilets that flush…in the wrong direction.”
The gently funny tone fits perfectly with the friendly guys who turn up on site, while self-deprecatingly comparing themselves to superheroes displays the quiet confidence the team so richly deserves. That theme stretches throughout their site, but again, the content of this is less important than the feeling it gives readers – “I like these people. I trust them.”
Mr Trump your copywriting
So when you’re looking at your web text or brochure, your proposals and reports, ask yourself what you’re saying, beyond the words. How are you making people feel? Your messaging doesn’t have to be as meaningless and incoherent as Trump’s – but it should be at least as emotive.