But Wait, There’s Trump: Salesmanship Meets Politics

But Wait, There’s Trump: Salesmanship Meets Politics

Like many copywriters, I can be a bit of a language nerd. Understanding how others’ perceptions of us are coloured by the words we use is an extremely important skill that everyone in marketing should at least understand, if not outright master. And when it comes to wizardry of public perception, you can’t ignore the Republican nomination of Donald Trump.

I was watching a video by fellow language nerd The Nerdwriter  titled “How Donald Trump Answers a Question“. In it, he broke down how Donald Trump speaks, when something occurred to me.

The NerdwriterA Brief Summary of the Video

While I encourage you to watch the video for yourself, there are a couple of points that struck a chord with me, as someone who’s been a student of marketing as well as language:

  • Trump ends almost every sentence, and precedes almost every pause, with an inciting keyword. He’ll repeat these keywords over and over again, often several times in a row.
  • Trump speaks using very simple language, in very short, quick sentences.
  • Trump very often speaks in the second person, addressing his audience directly, often telling them how they feel or what they experience (such as ‘you see people talking about me’).
  • Trump constantly uses testimonials to dispel doubt—often from dubious sources.

After hearing all of this, it’s easy to see that this mode of speech is uncommon in politics. And yet, somehow it seems extremely familiar. Why?

Ace up the sleeveTrump’s Tricks of the Trade

Trump’s method of speaking is uncommon in politics, but it’s common somewhere else: In my childhood, on TV, at 3AM.

Each of those points are the exact same copywriting techniques that were used in late-night infomercials that permeated the airwaves throughout the early days of cable television:

3 Rs of Being Remembered: Repetition, Repetition, and Repetition

Repeating the product name several times helps to promote retention, and in some cases even associates the brand name with the product more closely than the product name itself (for example, resistance-rod training equipment is most commonly known as “Bowflex”).

Classic style fountain penPerhaps Pedantry and Hyper-Sophisticated Linguistics Mightn’t be the Optimal Course of Action…

Using simple language is important for several reasons. For one, it makes the speaker sound common and relatable; if someone comes to your home with a big eloquent speech full of pedantic verbiage, they sound pompous and scripted (much like I do when I use terms like ‘pedantic verbiage’), and perhaps even duplicitous, as confusing language is often used as ‘small-print’ to hide true meaning. On the other hand, someone who speaks frankly and with short words comes off as being genuine and ‘off-the-cuff’ rather than scripted.

In infomercials, hosts will often scoff at big words and complex language, breaking them down to very basic terms for their audience with a “what does that mean?” or “that’s a fancy way of saying…” line, which is an outright acknowledgement of the general mistrust of unfamiliar or complex language.

You’re Starting to See a Pattern Here.

The second-person is something that has become somewhat infamous in infomercials: What child of the 90s isn’t thoroughly familiar with hearing “Has this happened to you?” as a black-and-white on-screen doofus fumbles to perform the simplest of tasks.

The second-person narration goes beyond the clumsy examples; the most successful and iconic infomercials feature a host speaking directly to the viewers at home, often telling people that they’re amazed, that they’re having fun, and that their lives need this ‘miraculous’ product.

Everyday use of multi-platform InternetPeople Everywhere Agree With Me.

Finally, the spurious testimonial. Testimonials from an audience who was paid to be there or awkward endorsements from people who seem to have been literally handed the product for the first time are another trademark of the infomercial.

Human beings are, by nature, pack animals. Testimonials play upon this natural desire to be validated by like-minded, trustworthy people. And while testimonials hold a greater amount of sway when presented by those we recognize as members of our own social groups, celebrities, or authority figures, even testimonials by strangers stroke this ‘pack’ part of our brains.

In other words…

Trump is a salesman.

You can say what you will about his policies, his constantly-shifting political stance, and his fitness for presidency… but he is undeniably a salesman. He knows what works; he’s undoubtedly used these techniques to sell the trump brand for most of his life. In fact, these are likely the same techniques he used to sell his namesake in everything from menswear to real estate to education to meat.

By learning how he presents himself, we can both understand a little more about the nature of persuasion, and get a glimpse about how the ‘man behind the curtain’ has pulled the strings required to secure the republican nomination.

Do you agree or disagree that Trump is a salesman? Do you think he’s willfully using these sales techniques on the campaign trail, or is this just his natural persona? We welcome discussion; please feel free to post a comment either below or on our Facebook feed. We only ask that you keep it civil; we understand that politics can get heated, but nothing is gained from a shouting match.

Want to sell a Slap-Chop or become the President of the United States? Get in touch. We can help you find the perfect words to suit what you’re selling.

William Hull
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