In a shock revelation, it has been announced that President-Elect Donald Trump’s number one choice for Secretary of State declined the offer.
Long-time Trump associate, Lucifer ‘El Diablo’ Beelzebub was the initial pick for the position but claimed a ‘crisis of conscience’ prevented him from accepting.
In a statement released by Beelzebub’s office, he said: “While honoured to be considered for this vital position, I have had increasing difficulty with much of the rhetoric I heard during a very difficult election process.”
Observers were surprised by this admission given Beelzebub’s long and controversial career. Known by many titles over this time including the ‘Dark Lord’, the ‘Prince of Confusion, ‘Satan’ and ‘Simon Cowell’, Beelzebub has been a trusted advisor of Trump for many decades. However Trump-watchers noted murmurings about Beelzebub’s visible distain for many of the visitors streaming to meet the President-Elect in recent days.
One, who declined to be named, said: “El Diablo’s track record shows he’s got a pretty strong stomach. But it turns out even he has standards.”
In his statement, Beelzebub said he will now focus all his energies on “exciting plans for the future in this new evil-friendly global environment”. With Project Syria now drawing to a close, it is expected that Dark Lord Enterprises is already looking to opportunities in post-Brexit Britain.
Today is the eve of the most bitter, rancorous and ominous US presidential election in living memory. I stress ‘living memory’ by the way, because many nineteenth century US elections were equally filthy – but that’s a subject for another day.
Whatever the result, it’s clear that the communications rules have been rewritten – or have they? Until this year, the orthodox assumption has been that carefully crafted, focus-group approved messages persuaded voters. On the flipside of that, any ‘gaffe’ or deviation would prove fatal, as it did for Mitt Romney with his infamous ‘47%’ comment in 2012.
This year, Trump proved that the most brazen lies were acceptable to millions of electors. Commentators seem stumped by how this has been possible. But to me, it’s less surprising – especially if you consider how other demagogues succeeded in the past.
Essentially, it can be summed up in one acronym: CAPES. This stands for Conviction, Authenticity, Promise, Empathy and Simplicity, the five pillars of a persuasive message. In every speech, Trump delivered these in truckloads.
He’s utterly convinced of his own brilliance and ability – and his conviction inspires complete confidence in his audience. This conviction becomes more compelling by its obvious authenticity; there’s no acting or mask involved here. His belief in his message is obvious. But his real skill appears after he shamelessly does a 180° degree policy turn. You can be sure he’ll appear to believe in his new position just as earnestly.
Then comes the most important ingredient: the promise. There’s no shilly-shallying or maybe-ing. Trump unequivocally promises to build a wall. Or jail Clinton. Or withdraw from trade deals. It’s a clear look-you-in-the-eye-‘this-product-will-improve-your-life sales pitch. And this promise works because it’s made to those who want to hear it.
Trump knows his audience’s pain points. Whether these are boarded-up coalmines in West Virginia or Latino immigration in Arizona, he expresses empathy by agreeing with the perceived cause of his audience’s grievance. Then he promises a solution – and importantly, a simple solution.
This takes us to the final ingredient in the mix. As Brexit proved, nuance doesn’t win elections. Simple slogans that boil issues down to few words do. Great if they’re true – but truth has been an optional extra in 2016 electioneering.
If you're reading this after 8 November and President Trump isn’t installed in the White House, this analysis might seem quaint. ‘That buffoon never had a chance of being elected” will hopefully be your knowing comment. But while the result still hangs in the balance and the threat of Trump is still real, the power of CAPES in moulding opinion (and potentially changing history) can’t be denied.
Marketingland has always been smitten with new technology. And it's just as well or we’d still rely on the town crier and his bell to spread the word. Saying that, there’s always been a tendency to uncritically jump on every tech bandwagon and trend without asking if it’s actually effective.
In this week’s Sunday Business Post, Joe Carmody of Edelman Ireland (@joecarm) calls out this infatuation – and in doing so, wins the much-coveted I Say! Quote of the Week award. Joe summed it up by saying “There is a sense of getting caught up in platforms and channels. It is more important that a company knows what it stands for. It’s not so much about what a brand or organisation does any more, it’s why it does it.”
Well said sir!
So Britain has made its decision. And it’s one we’ll all have to live with for a long time. But from a communications point of view, why did Out win?
It seems to me that Johnson, Farage and the other Little Englanders did four things right.
Ultimately, talk is cheap and actions speak far louder. In the years to come, we'll all have to live with what the Brexiters’ words really mean.
So what communication lessons have we learned half way through 2016? This isn’t the year that the political rule book was torn up. It’s the year that the rulebook was dropped in gutter, reversed over by a bin lorry and then put to spectacularly unsavoury use by a street drinker.
The US primaries and the Brexit referendum have taken place in a mature digital environment. Social media is now over a decade old and smartphones have become ubiquitous. And all this has returned us to the raucous democracy of the classical world; insults, half-truths and total lies are now slung across the digital agora* as candidates for the consulship struggle to be heard over the din.
It's not an environment where nuance and subtly thrives. Instead, it’s a Petri dish for the growth of larger-than-life characters like Farage, Johnson and Trump. None of these men are simple-minded. But they know that stripping a message down to its barest bones is the only way to cut through. It’s terrible to acknowledge the truth of what was said by another master propagandist Joseph Goebbels in 1941 “If you tell a lie big enough - and keep repeating it - people will eventually come to believe it.” Or how about “arguments must… be crude, clear and forcible, and appeal to emotions and instincts, not the intellect.”
Known as the ‘Big Lie’ (Der große Lüge), this technique as potent now as it ever was. Maybe it’s even more powerful since simplistic lies can be shared, echoed and amplified through comment treads, Facebook posts and dozens of other channels. This may sound pessimistic. But let’s look on the bright side; there’s a ying to the Big Lie’s yang.
Let’s call it the Big Truth. It simply means finding a simple, powerful, positive truth. Then shouting it, sharing it, repeating it and making it stick.
2016 has proved that while technology evolves fast, people don’t. You’d be forgiven for think that the following describes Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign strategy:
His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.
But it wasn’t written by a political analyst in 2016. It was written 70 years ago by the Office of Strategic Services, the US wartime intelligence agency about someone even scarier.
*The gathering place in ancient Greek city states.
Direct marketers have known the value of data for years. After all, the more that’s known about customers, the more focused the message can be. With the arrival of the internet – and social media in particular – mountains of money have been earned by sites that generate data. Yet, some still maintain that data isn’t of any particular relevance to them. Instead, a buccaneering do-it-by-gut-feel attitude prevails.
Highlighting this, Edward Charvet of the Logicalis Group wryly observed in the Sunday Business Post on 19 June: “If I had a pound for every time someone in the building industry told me you don’t need data, I’d be a lot wealthier. This is ironic because maths holds a building up.”
This little nugget made us smile. So we've made it our Quote of the Week award.
Older CEOs talk about vision. They talk about disruption. They talk about….well, whatever jargon they’ve picked up at last week’s conference. But a newer generation’s vocabulary is a little more authentic. And this makes them more believable.
Take a bow Northern Ireland’s Peter Johnson (@PeterLJohnson), fresh-faced CEO of software startup Lystable who tweeted “When a client emails to say they are finding your tool addictive, it is a good day.”
Quote of the Week? We think so…
I'm sure you've spent many hours wondering why I SAY! was established. Well, this piece in The Drum today pretty much explains everything.
A billion words will be written about David Bowie and I certainly can’t claim any special insights. But - his talent, originality and intelligence aside - it's worth pointing out another other reason why he stood head and shoulders above the herd.
Bowie’s integrity and authenticity resonated in a world of templates and formulae; the music game has always been a business where most so-called artist(e)s work to someone else’s script. He didn’t – and this bravery gave his music real depth and meaning.
The dark side of not giving a damn is Donald Trump. Unfortunately, he’s still with us while a shining example of the magic that results from boldly speaking and singing with your own voice is gone.
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