Lessons Mr. Trump is teaching advertisers

For the record, this is about psychology and advertising – not politics. This is about America becoming the world leader in Attention Deficit Disorder and the lessons those of us who create ad copy and manage campaigns should be paying attention to.

Just the facts:

  • Americans spend more hours online (35.3 hours a month) than every country but Canada (not good, eh?)
  • Americans read at a 5th grade level (note: many Dr. Seuss books are written at a 3rd grade level. You do the math.)
  • America ranks near the bottom in education among industrialized nations
  • At least 11% of American students are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorders compared to .5% in France. (Go ahead and chant Big Pharma here if you’d like, but they’re only a piece of the problem)

So what’s ADD have to do with politics? Whether by accident or because he’s a master puppeteer, Mr. Trump solved the Rubik’s Cube of communication. He defined the 4 LAWS of communicating to consumers and voters.

Keep it brief
Dumb it down
Repeat it three times

Keep it Brief: I studied it. Mr. Trump’s most salient (and I use that term loosely) points are made in sound bites of 30 seconds or less – often far less. Given this lesson, you must infer that people’s attention spans are diminishing. When I write radio or TV copy, I recognize that I have 5-7 seconds to command the attention of my consumer. If I miss that window — adios! So, if you’re writing 60 second ad copy, give serious thought to shortening it to 30, 15, or even 10 seconds.

Dumb it down: For an intelligent and well-educated man, Mr. Trump uses a purposely non-polysyllabic, pedestrian vocabulary. Brilliant, and not by accident! No disrespect, but he identified that his target audience (e.g., voters of both parties) comprehend at around a 5th grade level. If you write ad copy, don’t fall in love with your vocabulary and stop trying to win a prize for your writing. Keep it simple and don’t try to say everything you know about your product in one commercial. Ad creative is a linear, ongoing story. If you try to cover it all in 60 seconds, you’ll fail miserably.  

Repeat it three times: Here’s an absolute from my chosen field of psychology that applies to writing ad copy: if you want your patient to understand a crucial point, you need to say it once, say it again, and say it a third time in a slightly different way.

Hyperbolize: Admittedly, this one makes me a little nuts (but completely manageable with meds). Mr. Trump applies hyperbole to his major points like I apply sprinkles to ice cream: in jaw-dropping, diabetes-inducing excess. Count the number of times he uses phrases like: disgusting, disaster, tremendous, and ridiculous and you’ll see the method he’s using. Advertising has long used puffery to describe and influence sales because it works. Sadly, what works better is believability delivered by a credible person.

And there you have it… the four lessons Mr. Trump is teaching advertisers and agency folks alike. And on one final note, lest you think I’m implying that consumers are lacking in neurons, I’m not. I’m simply stating most consumers (especially among the prized millennial demo and younger) have attuned their attention to shorter, more interesting messaging while avoiding longer, more thought-challenging messaging, and it would serve all of us well to understand it.