, 63 tweets, 17 min read Read on Twitter
How does Trump win?

That’s what I tackled in my talk to the Business Insider Trends conference in Warsaw today.

Trump is a horrible person, with many terrible flaws. Yet he won. Partly because some of his communications are very effective.
The science of persuasion has taught us a lot about how to persuade people.

But because humans are complicated, it’s not always obvious which trigger works best.

Digital marketers on the other hand have often reverse engineered the same triggers,
...simply based on what works for them.

I’ve spent my career straddling the corporate digital marketing world and politics – so Trump fascinates, and horrifies, me.

So for my client Best for Britain, during the 2017 General Election...
..., we could test two identical adverts on the same audiences.

The best ad outperformed the worst ad by 47%, just by changing a few words
We could see that celebrities drove lots of traffic to our website. But only if they tweeted a link. We could see that YouTube and Facebook advertising worked, but Twitter didn’t. And we could measure how quickly people went from signing up to an email list to donating money.
And this is possible in the corporate world too.

Do people buy toothpaste after seeing a TV ad?

Does a Facebook post make them like a brand better ?

That is how we can understand what makes Donald Trump effective.
Donald Trump is an effective communicator.

Because despite huge failings, he became President. And he has a good chance of getting elected again.

Businesses can learn from this.

Trump has three smart mind tricks.

Firstly the power of simplicity.
He uses simple words. Short words. Short sentences. And lots of repetition.

A child can understand him.

Why is this good?

Well our brains get confused. They confuse easy with good.

A trick you may have seen with Apple.

Consider this:
Ask people which is true.

Tests show that people choose the first.

Why? Because it’s easier to read.

[Both are lies incidentally]
What about long words?

Well consider this academic study: Which shows that long words make you look less clever.

So armed with science I looked at a Donald Trump speech. And I compared it to a Hillary Clinton speech .
Source materials here:

You only need to be 11 years old to understand the Trump speech.

You need to be 15 years old to understand the Clinton speech. Still pretty good.
Or consider their sentence lengths.

Trump’s typical sentence has 8 words. Clinton’s 17.

You only need to be 11 years old to understand a Trump speech.

And because of that, you don’t need to pay much attention to him.
What does it have?

Short words. Short sentences.

And lots of repetition. Lots of repetition. Repetition. Lots of it.

Look at this speech:
What would Hillary Clinton say?

Probably something like this:
Same information. But not as effective.

Our brains confuse simple and easy to understand with true. And we remember it more.
Short words win. Repeat things to win.

Short words mean that people like you.

Short words mean that people remember you.

And short words help online too. Better written stuff does better in Google searches.
Anyone serious about SEO now edits their content for maximum readability.

I have run tests on readability. Making text easier to read often leads to increases in open or click rates on emails of over 20%.
And if you want to get good at readability here’s something you can do today. Try and get good at Twitter.

180 characters forces you to use short words and simple ideas.

So simple works.

What else?
Grab people’s attention

Trump dominates debate. When he’s absurd, you can’t ignore him. And you can’t attack him when everybody is talking about whatever he’s said today.

Take this tweet.
Absurd. Ridiculous. Patronising. But seizes the attention.

In the 2016 Presidential election Clinton spent double what Trump did on advertising. $800m to his $400m

But Trump got over $5bn of free media coverage on TV, in print, radio and in social media....
...compared to $3bn for Clinton .
Measured this way people heard Trump one third more space than Clinton.

One third more space in people’s heads.

Constantly grabbing people by the brain works.

Firstly it makes Trump more familiar.

Psychologists have a phrase: The ‘mere exposure effect’.
In other words the more familiar something is, the more we like it. On average.

Secondly it frames the debate.

People knew what Trump was talking about because time is limited on TV and radio.
And because attention is limited in people’s brains, that meant they knew less about what Clinton was talking about. That meant Trump could fight battles on his pitch.

This pulled people’s attention towards Trump’s issues.
Trump could make sure the election was fought about issues he was strong on.

By the end of the campaign the public’s top issues looked like this - with the Republicans winning the red ones.
So Trump got to fight on issues where people prefer the Republicans.

He didn’t win on every top issue – but he did better than he would have.

And how does contantly grabbing attention work online?

Well it turns out that social networks do the work for him.
If you say something nasty then people talk about it.

They share it.

They comment on it.

They like it. Or dislike it.

And the social networks have a problem.

A fight looks like good content.

Facebook sees that babies get lots of likes, shares and comments.
But it also sees that Donald Trump gets lots of likes, shares and comments.

The social networks know they have this problem. But, they haven’t solved it.

I did an experiment on this in 2017. By accident.
I wrote a sensible article about Brexit (with @mrianleslie)

We were careful.

We were polite.

We were reasonable.
But the New Statesman put this photo at the top of my article. It could be worse.

When I posted it on Facebook and paid for some advertising it got attention straight away.

People started fighting in the comments

They shared it with friends.

Hundreds liked it.
People fought so much that Facebook told me it was the best advert I’d ever done.

And every social network does this.

They make fights more visible.

And this is great for Trump.

Because he is great at starting fights.

Free reach.

Cheaper advertising.

Grabbing attention.
How often does he do this?

The whole time

Here’s a randomly chosen week:

●Tuesday Trump jokes about staying in office beyond the two term Presidential limit.
●Wednesday - Trump fires his National Security Adviser John Bolton
●Thursday September 11th. A day for sombre reflection on people murdered in the 9/11 attacks. Not if you are Trump. Trump keeps attacking John Bolton.
●Friday. It should be a Democrat news day.
After all it’s the first time that all Democrat Presidential contenders are on stage together. But instead Trump goes live on TV disrupting them.

●Saturday. Trump has a day off.
●Sunday. Trump threatens war with Iran.
●Monday. Trump attacks the New York Times, and the media love a fight like this, over their coverage of Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh.
This is very hard to defend against.

It’s trolling by any other name.

I suggest four options to fight it.

You can counter attack – as Kamala Harris did when she compared Trump to the Wizard of Oz. He was clever enough to ignore that.
Or you can ignore it. Twitter isn’t everything- but you need to educate your followers not to take the bait.

Or you can put pressure on media to not report trolling. Sometimes possible when you have quality media who are willing to think about journalistic ethics. But hard.
Or you can make it expensive for him to troll – for instance taking legal action.

None are ideal.

So what’s Trump’s third trick?

It’s making himself look popular.

We are herd animals.

Psychologists call this social proof.
So we like popular people more.

And we like things that our friends like.

Advertisers have known this for years.

We buy cat food because other people say their cats prefer it.
And if we see a Facebook ad endorsed by a friend, through a simple Like, we are more likely to notice it, remember it and buy it.

And I’m more likely to buy this battery I saw on Facebook because my friend Alan liked it.
Facebook have measured it. And you are 20% more likely to buy this battery if a friend has liked the Facebook Page.

You’re also willing to look at things that don’t exist.

In this case looking at nothing in the sky.

Trump does this in lots of ways

He surrounds himself with celebrities
He gets into films...
He hosts a TV show...
He pretends to be really rich, early on by wearing a gold construction helmet.
He makes sure that he’s constantly seen talking to big crowds.

But he has one terrible fear….
Now this isn’t a new trick. Democrats haven’t been short of style and celebrity.

And Trump claims to be at the centre of the best things in history.

Here’s that speech again….
He has the best soldiers.
The best economy.
The biggest pay rise.
The best uniforms.
The lowest unemployment.
And the best country ever.
In one 40 minutes speech Trump talks about having the best, biggest or smartest 12 times. Once every 200 seconds .

Trump makes himself look popular.

And the thing that he is scared of is being unpopular. It’s a vicious cycle.

That’s why he hates Obama having bigger crowds.
So if you pull these things together what do you get?

Buying Greenland.

It seizes attention, for days.

It makes him look big & powerful. I mean what’s bigger than buying a country?

And it’s a really simple idea. Like buying a house. Just bigger. The biggest. The biggest idea.
Businesses can learn from this.

Firstly PR is a crucial part of marketing - because it forces you to engage with your audiences the whole time. It forces you to be interesting.

Advertising is important too. But PR forces you to learn to be interesting.
Secondly being simple is hard.

Businesses often manage to do simple marketing.

But they fail with their PR, internal communications, stakeholder relations, and many other things they do.

Thirdly you can create the idea of popularity.
So make it easy for your friends to talk about you.

Make sure they know what you think.

Email them. Facebook. Twitter. Phone. Post. It’s almost impossible to say too much to your audiences.

Learn from Trump - and we can beat people like Trump.

Thank you.
References for this:
Thinking Fast & Slow, Daniel Kahneman
Everything that @RobertCialdini has written.
Lots from @scienceofyes - who has an excellent new book Messengers that covers related topics.
Free media estimates from this story. The original research seems to have disappeared, but I'm confident the main thrust is right.


Polling from Pew:
Check out Trump's latest headline grabbing on @politico


Trump pretending to be rich is from here:
@politico Trump's speech was chosen randomly. It's his address to the AMVETS 75th National Convention in Louisville - August 21, 2019.
I learnt a lot about how publishers care about readability from @cathyma
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Rob Blackie
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!