Rock Steady

One of the most reliable indicators of a modern successful campaign is the ability of the campaign to communicate its message. The communication of the message should be consistent and repeated over and over and over again.

First the campaign must craft a message. That message should be short and to the point. A good rule of thumb for the length of a successful message is 4 words or less. A campaign that cannot explain why voters should consent to vote for its candidate in a four word concise message is bound to encounter difficulty.

For instance, probably the greatest or one of the greatest American presidents, was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His most memorable campaign message (1932) was short and concise: “A New Deal”. Not only was this a very concise message that all Americans understood, it also was a clever contrast to what came before (Ripublicans) and the unfair deal Americans were being dealt. FDR ran for president in the shadow of the great depression. Unemployment had soared to 25%, jobs were lost as the manufacturing sector collapsed, agriculture collapsed, and the raw materials market also collapsed. The results of all this economic turmoil was an unhappy electorate. FDR with the 3 simple words of “A New Deal” summarized why he was running for president and why Americans should vote for him, as well as drawing a very pointed reminder of what the Ripublicans and their policies had wrought.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1960 was equally sly. His message was concise and pointed as well. His inspirational message was “The New Frontier”. This 3 word message summarized the hopes that the young future president held for just about every facet of American life. Outer space, national security, civil rights, foreign policy, the economy – all were on the threshold of a new and exciting frontier. That this soon to be very young president was replacing Eisenhower, up to then the oldest American president, was slyly referenced by the 3 word message.

Richard Nixon was disliked and distrusted when he ran, yet again, for president in 1968. The unpopular “Tricky Dick” simply ran as a “New Nixon” and ran a contrast campaign against Hubert Humphrey with “Nixon’s The One”. Nixon manufactured popularity from unpopularity. Perhaps he was doing a variation of the slogan of the president he served under, Eisenhower. Eisenhower, who had led the great armies to victory over the axis powers had as his slogan the simple and effective “I Like Ike”.

Ronald Reagan was “Morning In America”, Truman “Give ’em Hell, Harry!”, and long ago James K. Polk ran on the aggressive “54-40 Or Fight” (probably the only slogan ever to reference a latitude).

The John Kerry campaign, by contrast, at the 2004 convention distributed signs with the message “Hope Is On The Way”. However, oftentimes the candidates on the campaign trail would change it to “Help Is On The Way”. There was not much consistency in message. At least the message did convey the idea of the disaster that was the Bush II administration.

The amazing Bill Clinton campaign of 1992 employed the very effective “Putting People First” as its message. This message like all good messages provided the American people with a concise idea of what hope filled Bill Clinton wanted to do if elected. It also, slyly, referenced President George H. W. Bush’s policies which did not – put people first.

On June 20, 2007 Politico intelligently noted that the Hillary Clinton Campaign had unveiled a new sign. The message on that sign is simple. It is concise. It is contrastive. It is effective. And it is short: 1 word.

The Message In One Word