Monkey Business: The Trump Campaign

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17th November 2016

In our Monkey Business series, we analyse how charismatic leaders tickle your chimp to influence you.

First up: President Elect Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, the Republican Party celebrated success in one of the most divisive elections in US history. Leaving political commentary to those far more engaged and qualified than any of us here at Slingshot Towers, there’s little question that Trump’s campaign stirred a passion in voters unlike many politicians before him. But why were his supporters so engaged? What makes his messages so effective? Just what was it that gave them the edge on his competitor’s?

Listen carefully to Trump’s soundbites and you might start to notice a pattern.


Emotive language stimulates the influential emotional part of the brain: ‘fleeing’, ‘destroying’
Simple messages are easily understood: ‘crime’, ‘jobs’
Scary concepts put the listener on high alert: ‘thugs’, ‘rapists’, ‘hundreds of hundreds’
Reassuring language comforts and reinforces Trump’s position as protector: ‘credible’
Contrast strengthens this position: ‘credible’ vs ‘fraud’
And every time, he ends his statement on the core message.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Keep watching, and you’ll begin to see what makes him such an influential communicator. He creates stories simple enough for anybody (and their chimp) to understand. He uses concrete language – words you can see,touch, feel – to make those messages real. And when he reaches his core point, he’ll repeat, and repeat, and repeat it.

Trump’s language is such a contrast to what we’re used to hearing from polititians. Gone are the evasive, abstract issues of ‘economy’, and ‘policy’ – when Trump talks about issues, he uses language already in the heads of the electorate, bringing them to the surface and linking them to himself (or his competitors). This is an amazing communication technique – you can make an abstract problem concrete by doing this.

Scott Adams talks about Trump’s incredible influential technique

If you’re selling a simple product, like apples, you probably don’t need to worry too much about your buyer understanding what’s on offer. They’re hungry, they’re looking for something sweet, juicy, and healthy, with a satisfying crunch. But what if your product is more difficult to define? How do you make something abstract – like an alogorithm, a program, a training service – into something your buyer can physically understand – like an apple? And maybe your buyer doesn’t even know they’re hungry. Maybe they’ve been OK with what they’re getting from grapes.

Messages that stimulate the physical, emotional, chimp brain are five times more influential. Numbers and statistics don’t do this (unless they directly threaten the status quo). To truly engage an audience, you need to speak to them in a way that wakes up their chimp brain and makes sure they’re really listening.

Want to understand more about creating stories that talk to the chimp?

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