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  • Writer's pictureStephen Bohnet

Messaging Challenge - Defining Donald Trump

Messaging provides clarity about your brand. It explains who you are and what you stand for. A good message cuts through because it is clear, memorable, and believable. With repetition, the right message builds awareness, makes a brand relevant, shapes perceptions and can lead to business growth.

This time tested marketing principle also has a role in politics, both to define the candidate and the competition. "Tricky Dick" Nixon isn't a phrase developed over Watergate, or Nixon's resignation. "Tricky Dick" can be traced to Nixon's vicious US Senate race almost 25 years earlier.

Over the past year, messages like Tricky Dick have returned in full force, with Donald Trump relishing the opportunity to define his opponents with clear, memorable, and believable messaging. How would you feel about voting for a president called Crooked Hillary? What is your reaction to a candidate when you hear him described over and over again as Low Energy Jeb, Little Marco, Lyin Ted, or Crazy Bernie? It might seem like Trump rattles these off the cuff, but creating cut-through messages takes a lot of work to discover an insight that will connect and stick with your audience.

If you're not convinced that Trump’s naming calling can really alter perceptions, then imagine if beer brands operated the same way. We'd hear about Belgian Bud. Budweiser wants us to believe it is America's King of Beers (they even rebranded Bud as "America" for the summer), but who do they think they’re kidding? Anheuser-Busch sold out to Inbev, a Belgian company, back in 2008. We'd all hear that Crappy Corona is easily the worst tasting of the Mexican beers. It's undrinkable without a lime, rates among the worst of Mexican beers, and the locals prefer Dos Equis, Bohemia, or Negro Modelo.

Are these claims about Budweiser and Corona true? There's a hint of believability that might make a beer drinker nod in agreement, as we can see from these insights gathered in social media and ratings websites:

If this negative form of messaging is so powerful, then why don't more brands do it? Brands don't receive Trump's level of PR, so they rely on advertising to communicate their messages. While making claims against a competitor can be persuasive, truth-in-advertising laws protect brands against false or deceptive advertising, including the use of unproven information. In other words, brands can't say just anything they want about a competitor. They have to be able to back up their claims with evidence. These same laws don't apply in politics. Candidates can say just about anything they want, as their opinions are considered freedom of speech. As cynically explains:

You can lie in the ads, you can lie about what you’ve said in the ads, and your opponent can lie about you. Lying to consumers can get you prosecuted. Lying to voters can get you elected.

Now that we’ve given an overview about messaging, we at F’inn need your help. Trump has worked hard to define his competitors, but nobody has come up with a clear, memorable, and believable message about Donald Trump.


How would you define Donald Trump?

Please submit your messages in the comments section or by tweeting @thefinnovators. We'll gather the ideas, test them for popularity to find a winner, and will share the results with you.

We look forward to hearing your suggestions.


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