This One Small Difference in Copywriting Could’ve Changed the 2016 Election

Love it or hate it, it’s election season and that means you’re seeing a wealth of stellar and not so stellar copywriting by candidates and campaigns.

In my family, this time of year holds a special spot in our hearts. My dad has been a politician since 2008 when he first ran for Tucson’s city council. Right now, he’s forehead deep in campaigning his little heart out to try to win over his constituents for another four years.

Disclaimer: My Tucson-based marketing agency has had zero to do with his campaign because nepotism isn’t exactly apropos in the political world (nor should it be). Also, full disclosure, I don’t invite anyone to judge my marketing agency’s book by my dad’s political cover. Although we share the same blood, we don’t always share the same views. He’s his own candidate and I run my own business. Plain and simple.

Got it? Good.

The political world is a funny one. It’s full of outlandish remarks, wild ideas, among plenty of healthy, substantial plans-of-action for when people and propositions get voted in. To get the votes needed to pass (or not pass, whatever the agenda might be) you must tell a compelling story.

And that, my friends, is where this post is going (you were wondering, weren’t you?).

Case in Point: The 2016 Presidential Election

Let’s rewind to the political election so many of us would like to forget. No matter whether your candidate won or lost, I think we can all agree that it was nasty, long, tedious, and drawn out. But, there’s a lot of copywriting gold that we can glean from it.

To start, let’s look exclusively at Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s slogans:

  • I’m With Her
  • Make America Great Again

I encourage you, for the next few minutes of reading, to put your political stance aside. My only focus here is on each of the top candidate’s slogans – not their political views.

What differences do you notice between the two?

On the surface, they both sound pretty standard. Dig a little deeper and the copywriting difference could be transformative.

Each statement puts a different person as the hero of the story.

Every story needs to have a hero and a villain. There must also be a supporting character (or cast of characters) to get the hero from problem to solution.

In the 2016 election, Clinton’s hero was herself. “I’m with her” cast a crowd of characters (her supporters) around her. With their vote, they’d get her to her end goal. Yes, ultimately, that’d change the country according to her positions, but that wasn’t the story she told. In her campaign, she first had to have voters work to help her through the problem (the election) to the solution (the Presidency).

Now, let’s look at Trump’s hero. He took himself out of the campaign equation and positioned the American people as the hero. With their vote, they’d make America great again. He was simply the supporting character to get them there. The American people had a “problem” and the solution was their vote so that they could build a country they love.

See the difference? It’s slight but it’s powerful.

Back to Your Business

There’s real meat here and a big-time takeaway. So often, businesses place themselves as the hero of the story.

Here’s one example: The business that uses “award-winning” in their headline as a way to show that they’re better than the competition. The business is the hero; not the customer.

Another example: The business that’s “family owned” and has “X years of experience.” I’m not even sure where the customer fits into that mix or how it paints a picture of what the hero will achieve other than keeping the business around for a few generations longer.

Awards support the idea that you’re doing something right but they don’t drive sales.

Experience supports the idea that you’re good enough to bring in cash and stick around, but it doesn’t compel someone to pick up the phone and call you.

Businesses that use copywriting that place the customer as the hero of their story are the ones that sell. The customer can instantly see herself in the problem you present and the solution you offer, which in turn makes her confident that you’re the one who gets it. You’re the supporting cast of characters that’ll bring her, your hero, to the solution she seeks.

You’re not the hero…

… the hero is the person whose life is changing simply because she made the smart decision to pick up the phone and call you.

Your job is simply to give your customer the tools to solve the problem. But her? She’s the one who’ll win in the end. Show her how and you’ll earn her vote… er… business every time.


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