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Battle of the Campaign Slogans

Battle of the Campaign Slogans

    Hillary Clinton rolled out a new campaign slogan this weekend: “We’re stronger together.” And by new slogan, I mean it is the same as a recent Estee Lauder ad campaign slogan. But Trump borrowed from Reagan with his “Make America Great Again” slogan, so let’s score it a tie in terms of originality.

    Now let’s see how the slogans compare in terms of persuasion. I’ll start with Trump’s slogan first, then look at Clinton’s new offering.

    Make America Great Again

    Trump’s slogan uses the following persuasion techniques:

    1. Provides no targets for disagreement.

    2. Everyone has their own sense of what “great” means and how to do it. That vagueness is hardcore hypnosis technique.

    3. It speaks to identity (the strongest form of persuasion) as Americans.

    4. It suggests we lost something. Humans have more emotional connection to loss than potential gain.

    5. It has “America” in it. That word is persuasion catnip for Americans. We have been brainwashed to have a twitch response to it. 

    6. It appeals to both genders.

    7. It is aspirational. We all want to be better, or to make the country better.

    Now let’s look at Clinton’s new slogan.

    We’re Stronger Together

    Clinton’s slogan uses all of the persuasion techniques listed below.

    1. None

    Maybe I should tell you what is wrong with Clinton’s slogan from a persuasion perspective. Otherwise, we’re done early.

    From a 2D perspective, where we pretend logic and reason matter, it makes perfect sense to prefer togetherness. And you can see how that might improve strength. But no one cares about the logic of it. Here’s what it gets wrong:

    1. “Together” is a concept that skews female, at least in this specific context. Estee Lauder probably thought it skewed female when they thought of it too. We’re socially primed to see women as the gender that cooperates, while men are the gender who refuse to ask directions. Clinton’s slogan suggests we are stronger when we cooperate like women. This probably plays well with women and not so well with men, at least on an identity level.

    2. “Stronger” is generally a good word, but Trump already dominates that branding. It is far too late to frame Clinton as the strong one. So it comes across as a mixed message. 

    3. Togetherness sounds good(ish), but it falls short of an aspiration. No one wakes up with a passion to pursue togetherness. Half of the country is comprised of introverts, loners, and competitive a-holes. Those folks want less togetherness, even if they mean it in an entirely different way. On an irrational level, togetherness – in all its forms – is simply not a universal desire. Compare that to making America greater, which is all good, all the time, to all Americans.

    4. “Stronger together” reflexively reminds you of socialism. America already has plenty of socialist parts, but the majority of voters probably want some limits on how far it goes. By comparison, no one wants to limit how “great” America gets.

    I realize that people reading this blog consider me hugely biased in favor of Trump because I write about his persuasion skills. If you believe the Clinton slogan works on a persuasion level, and I missed a trick, let me know what I missed. The slogan looks empty to me.

    My contention is that Trump has the best persuasion skills I have ever seen. Clinton’s team seems to have no trace of that particular skill. Obviously Clinton has her own advantages, including her greater mastery of the issues.

    But I doubt the issues will matter this year. They never have before.

    If you like issues more than you like persuasion, or vice versa, you should see my book. That thing is full of pages.

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