Messaging the 2024 election

This post is long and flirts with the 10% fair use limit, but I’ll try to keep under it.

Dave Kellogg has a blog post up from a few days ago comparing the messaging of Team Trump vs Team Biden. Read the whole thing, but here are some core points. Kellogg distills the Democratic two-word message to “Save Democracy” and the GOP two-word message to “Save America.”

In short:

• “Republicans want to save the country, Democrats want to save an idea. Saving the country is infinitely more visceral and motivating.

• “Republicans want to fight crises, Democrats want to fight a man. This positions the Republicans as trying to help the average American and the Democrats as fighting a personal battle.

“Logically, the Republican message almost auto-justifies extraordinary means in order to achieve its critical end. Who cares about saving democracy when America itself is at risk? We need to save our country and our way of life — and if that means taking a few liberties and/or tyranny of the minority, then so be it. We’re talking about saving America, here. We can fix that other stuff, later.”

Where does this take us?

“Save America points you in the direction of talking about the threats to America. That is, from the audience’s perspective, the day-to-day problems they face. As I’ve said many times, convincing someone you understand and care about the problem — in software or in politics — counts for about 80% of the sale.”

“Save Democracy points you in the direction of Trump. He is the threat to democracy. So you start to talk about the things he’s done and the risks of what he might do. That leads to talking about the people who’ve joined him, the inner circle at first, but if you keep going, you get to the entire Republican party. Ending here is disastrous because, as Hillary clearly demonstrated, insulting people isn’t a great strategy to win their support.
“The narrative ends up sounding personal, angry, and negative. And it can lead to a deplorables style write-off of your opponent’s supporters and, more dangerously, the Independents who sympathize with them.”

What is to be done?

“I’d recommend the following ways to improve the Democratic messaging:

• Not adopt a save-something counter message. This blows things up on the launch pad and lets the opponent define the agenda.

• Sell today’s success. Several surveys show that many Americans think they (and interestingly, other Americans) are doing worse than they actually are. The cardinal sin of marketing is under-marketing reality.

• Sell a vision for a brighter future. I’m not sure what or how, but that’s what people want to buy. Sell it to them. It’s a far better strategy than attacking the other guy in the name of saving a relatively unpopular idea.

• Don’t turn the race into a good vs. evil battle. This is precisely what the opposition wants. Don’t give it to them.

• Put an emphasis on actual solutions. Where’s the beef? What are the details of the “better” health plan? This one’s dangerous, but so is giving your competitor a pass on their ability to solve problems.”


Messaging the 2024 presidential election