Last night Donald Trump offended America’s finer sensibilities (again)…
The Republican National Convention, last night. “The Donald” was finally getting the official coronation and nomination from the Republican Party.
He stepped to the microphone for his acceptance speech. And for an hour and 15 minutes — the longest acceptance speech in four decades, according to USA Today — he railed on the horrible state of the nation, and how he considers himself to be uniquely qualified to fix it…
If you read the media, this speech was horribly, terribly wrong…
Running through some headlines in Google News today…
“Donald Trump’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, too long speech” — The Washington Post.
“Donald Trump’s Dark, Dark Convention Speech” — The New Yorker.
“How Donald Trump failed in his dark disaster of an acceptance speech” — MarketWatch.
“Donald Trump’s a scary figure. He’d be terrifying if he were actually a good speaker.” — Vox.
“Donald Trump’s Angry, Dark Speech Caps Off a Disastrous RNC” — The Nation.
“Donald Trump Takes America on a Journey to the Dark Side” — NBC News.
“Donald Trump’s Weird and Wild Post-RNC Speech” — The Atlantic.
And so on. While some praised it, a HUGE amount of coverage of the speech joined Bloomberg in describing it as “apocalyptic” — or some variation thereof.
Hillary tweeted, “We are better than this.”
Not only was it too dark — it was far too long. When the media weren’t criticizing it for its content, they were complaining of the speech’s length.
The following is NOT support of Trump’s political views. Frankly, I’m a bit scared of anyone who pursues substantial political power — especially modern US politicians, especially our current two candidates… Rather, I want to look at all of these complaints exclusively from an influence and persuasion perspective.
Here’s what neither Hillary Clinton nor the majority of the media will admit…
We’re in an extremely polarized point in history right now. It’s mostly a shell game, because the two political parties are so close in action that it’s a joke to consider them different. However, in the cultural conversation, things are as divisive and contentious as they’ve been in recent memory.
In this environment, you don’t win by trying to reach across the aisle and make friends. You win by making enemies.
(This makes me sick to my stomach as I write it, as it’s very far from my character, but it’s an honest assessment.)
Along with this, the way to get the most people to rally behind you isn’t to show everything that’s good about America (of which there’s quite a bit)…
But rather, to really dig into peoples’ insecurities, fears, and frustrations about the state of things in America today (of which there’s also quite a bit)…
If Donald Trump showed up and started talking about how great America is today (a narrative that Hillary Clinton has to use as she shares a party affiliation with the sitting president), and how he was going to make it better…
He wouldn’t have nearly the appeal.
Rather, Trump is all about painting a dark, scary picture… Because it works!
I’ve been telling you exactly why Trump is so powerful for nearly a year now (almost as long as his campaign)…
Way back on August 13, 2015, I wrote of how Donald Trump was getting campaign advice from Eminem.
In his lyrics, Eminem has reflected on how he used controversy to become one of the best-selling musical artists of all time.
And Trump? His campaign has been rooted in controversy since the beginning. The more he creates, the better he does — and he knows it!
I’ve also indirectly shared some of the principles that Trump continues to use in his campaign, as he vies for the highest political office in the US (if not the world — that’s a maybe, but I’m not going to be so presumptuous and America-centric as to proclaim it).
For example, about 10 days ago I wrote this line, which one reader, Alex Popov, replied back to me as his biggest takeaway from a longer article on using pain and agony in your marketing and selling…
“Making people feel negative emotions about their current actions changes their buying criteria!”
If you think of campaigning as selling yourself and your ideas to the electorate, then every principle of selling should work equally well on the campaign trail.
Well, you can substitute “current situation” for “current actions” and “voting criteria” for “buying criteria” and suddenly you have a guiding principle of Trump’s acceptance speech last night, and his campaign as a whole…
“Making people feel negative emotions about their current situation changes their voting criteria!”
Didn’t Barack Obama campaign on “hope and change?” Hope and change against and from what? The negative situation that liberals and progressives believed George “Dubya” Bush had put our country into.
Again, in our extremely divisive political environment (which has been this way at least since Bill Clinton, if not before), it’s the candidate that can make you feel negative emotions about the most recent president (and by extension, their party) that has the most selling power.
“Selling against” is far more powerful than “selling with” or “selling for.”
I’m not saying this is right or represents the moral high ground. Sales, like politics, is very pragmatic in its principles. It observes what works. There are higher moral decisions that should be made before applying these principles, but refusing the validity of the principles is like saying gravity doesn’t work.
Even more “failures” of Trump’s speech that actually just prove he’s a master salesman…
So, the speech was “too long,” huh?
Any good direct marketer worth their salt (that is, anyone who measures the sales results of their marketing and repeats what works best) will tell you this has been tested seven ways ‘til Sunday.
There’s no such thing as copy that’s too long. There’s only copy that’s too boring.
Since we’re playing Mad Libs with our marketing maxims to turn them into political punditry, let’s try the old word switcheroo on that one, too…
There’s no such thing as a political speech that’s too long. Only a political speech that’s too boring!
Most people vastly underestimate the attention span of the average person.
People are willing to sit still and pay attention for a very long time — as long as they’re being entertained!
What’s a 75-minute political speech when the average Hollywood blockbuster clocks in somewhere close to 2 hours?
And you’re telling me that in today’s MTV-turned-YouTube generation, nobody will sit still for more than 90 seconds?
Not only are the RNC demographics older and more practiced at sustained attention than most younger folks, that assumption is mostly wrong.
You see, with our instant-access to every form of entertainment under the sun, you have to beat the instant availability of every other distraction, if you want to hold an audience.
But if you’re entertaining them, and holding their interest (especially once you get past about 20 minutes an inertia sets in), you can keep them engaged for a very, very long time.
Look no further for proof of that than the fact that the most successful online sales videos of the last few years (which were also quite “apocalyptic,” it should be noted) have clocked in at around the 75 minute mark as well.
Mr. Trump, again, is a very good sales person. He knows that as long as he doesn’t bore the American people, he can hold their attention for 75 minutes, if he dang well pleases.
One more thing: the simple language…
One of the headlines I quoted above said, “He’d be terrifying if he were actually a good speaker.”
I don’t think that writer really understands what makes a good speaker.
A good speaker communicates their message in a clear and compelling way that the majority of their audience understands and is persuaded by.
In most cases, most writers and speakers speak above their audience, and it hurts them.
Mark Ford (also known to many as Michael Masterson) once ran an analysis of dozens of Agora newsletters’ editorial content.
He got readability scores for each newsletter, and compared readability scores to paid subscriber retention rates.
What he found was that even in a topic as complex as investing and finance, scoring at an Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 7.5 or below led to the highest retention rates.
Contrary to what every college professor might tell you, simple writing is what readers actually want, as proven by buying behavior. (Even — maybe, especially — when it comes to complex topics!)
Trump has been bashed in the media for talking like a 4th grader. I ran the LA Times transcript of last night’s speech through two readability checkers, and found it actually comes in around 7.9 grade level. In that sense, his language was thick and complex, relative to most speeches.
But by using simple words, simple sentences, simple language to convey his political ideas and ideals, Trump is actually applying a very important persuasion principle: to talk (or write) in language your target audience will understand.
Since Trump is addressing the vast majority of the American people (and not pandering to elitists) he is right to use this level of language.
All of this adds up to a clear conclusion…
Trump is beating Hillary Clinton at selling himself to the American people…
— He’s using negative themes, highlighting Americans’ dissatisfaction with their current situation to change their voting criteria to favor him (as part of this, he’s also courting controversy to get attention, and to get voters to align with him, against Clinton)…
— He’s not cutting himself short — he’s making his speeches as long as they need to be to make his point, while keeping them interesting and entertaining to his audience…
— And he’s speaking in language his prospects, the American voter understands and can be moved by…
These are HUGE factors that lead me to agree with film director and liberal activist Michael Moore, that Hillary’s going to be facing another upset at the polls this election cycle, and come January, everything in the White House will be getting gold plating.
Agree with Trump and his politics or not, it’s hard to make any substantial argument against him as the better salesperson.
Which, incidentally, reminds us that democracy is a popularity contest, and NOT a measure of who is most qualified for a position, or who would actually lead to the best possible outcome.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,