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Lessons from 2020 Convention Talking Points

As a marketer, I pay attention to the brand positioning of political campaigns. Especially in this year’s Presidential election, the stakes are extremely high, so the messaging must be 100% on point. While I have plenty of personal opinions about which presidential candidate I support, that’s not what this blog is about. It is about taking a hard look at the campaigns’ talking points, and what your business can learn from them right now.

Talking points are a non-negotiable in any political campaign – and 2020’s Presidential campaign is no different. Like any savvy business, effective talking points are non-negotiable, and form the foundation of every client/supporter conversation, ad headline, leadership presentation and social content.

Talking points are this week’s topic in my 8 Marketing Must-Have’s series, and could not be better timed than right after the two political conventions. If you watched, or skimmed the recaps of what was said, you may have picked up that (in order of appearance):

The Democratic talking points are:

  1. We care about all of the American people

  2. We will listen to the experts and scientists so we can get back on track

  3. We will restore normalcy because we are experienced in government

  4. We will reform social justice

The Republican talking points are:

  1. We will restore law and order

  2. Trump is the one thing standing between our country and anarchy

  3. A CoVid cure is right around the corner

  4. We are the ones to trust to rebuild the economy

Lesson #1: Get Emotional

Political talking points are not the same as the party platforms (which are much broader) any more than business talking points are a list of features and benefits. To win, tug at the heartstrings (which are permanently attached to our deepest fears and desires as buyers and voters.) Regardless whether you buy in to the talking points of either party or not, you can see that they demonstrate a clear position. These high-level statements represent what the candidates stand for, and they do it with an emotional appeal. In large part, the party with the strongest emotional pull will win.

Lesson #2: Keep It Simple

There’s a running joke about Democrats, that Democratic slogans won’t fit on a bumper sticker because the bumpers aren’t big enough. Going too broad or too deep in a talking point is pointless. Talking points are not meant to educate, defend, explain, or convince. Talking points are designed to capture attention, and be memorable.

While campaign slogans are not technically talking points, the best ones evoke the same emotions and ideas of the talking points. They work in concert, just as ad headlines do for a business’ talking points. Here are the winning campaign slogans in US Presidential elections since 1948:

  1. 1948: Harry Truman — The Buck Stops Here

  2. 1952: Dwight E. Eisenhower — I Like Ike

  3. 1956: Dwight E. Eisenhower again — I Still Like Ike

  4. 1960: John F Kennedy — A Time for Greatness

  5. 1964: Lyndon Baines Johnson — All The Way With LBJ

  6. 1968: Richard Nixon — This Time, Vote Like Your Whole World Depended on It

  7. 1972: Richard Nixon again — Now, More Than Ever

  8. 1976: Jimmy Carter — A Leader, For a Change

  9. 1980: Ronald Reagan — Let’s Make America Great Again

  10. 1984: Ronald Reagan again — It’s Morning Again in America

  11. 1988: George HW Bush — Kinder, Gentler Nation

  12. 1992: Bill Clinton — For People, For a Change

But it was the unofficial slogan, initially first used by Clinton’s advisers, that caught the imagination: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

  1. 1996: Bill Clinton again — Building a Bridge to the 21st Century

  2. 2000: George W Bush — Compassionate Conservatism

  3. 2004: George W Bush again — A Safer World And a More Hopeful America

  4. 2008: Barack Obama — Change We Can Believe In

  5. 2012: Barack Obama again — Forward

  6. 2016: Donald Trump — Make America Great Again (One word short of Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign – so future candidates take note!)

Lesson #3: Address Concerns and Objections

When you have run a business for more than a week you have likely heard first-hand some reasons that customers don’t want to buy from you. Perhaps you were told that your offerings are too expensive, or don’t seem to fit their current needs. Talking points can address these objections early in the conversation, before they even arise.

This doesn’t necessarily mean going on the attack, as political parties so frequently do. Aggression has a nasty tendency to reflect back on the aggressor. However, sometimes the reasons your customers don’t buy is because they have poor understanding of how you are different from your competition. Using talking points to clarify, such as Biden stating that, “The chaos is actually happening now, under Donald Trump,” or Trump stating that, “Joe Biden will defund the police,” (an unsubstantiated statement, please note) are precisely this sort of clarifying and differentiating talking point.

Lesson #4: Deliver

Compelling talking points are one thing. However, if you are not able to deliver on their promise, your sale will be a one-time win. What’s worse, a duped customer (or voter) has a tendency to be your worst enemy, because they spread the word about your deceit – however well-meaning you might have been at the outset. Talking points are designed to build both awareness and trust. Failure to fulfill their promise breaks trust – often irreparably.

Unlike your business, when a presidential candidate wins, if they don’t deliver (as many have not,) as a voter, you must ride out four years of disappointment.

So, now that you understand how powerful talking points can be, especially if you were unconscious of the art and science behind them, pay attention. Check your facts, don’t spread any unsubstantiated talking points, and, at the same time, build your own verifiable talking points for your business to thrive.

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