Why Winning Candidates Keep the Message Simple

In a tough election, the candidate with the clearest and most concise message typically follows the old adage of marketing and campaigning known as KISS:  Keep It Simple, Stupid.

They know that keeping their campaign message as clear and as simple as possible is a key component to connecting with voters and thereby winning their election.

Whether you support or oppose Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, there’s no debating that they’ve been able to upset the apple cart of each major American political party.

There’s no secret to their success.  They did it by keeping their message simple.

Their rivals hounded them on specifics that have as yet to materialize, but it hasn’t mattered to the voters.

Daniel Henninger pointed this out in a recent Wall Street Journal column titled Trump and Bernie: Less Is More:

If you did a word-association game with people for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, it might go like this:

Donald Trump: wall, trade, terrific.

Bernie Sanders: billionaires, Wall Street, income inequality.

With these words, Donald Trump, the host of “Celebrity Apprentice,” defeated a platoon of professional Republican politicians and is the party’s presumptive nominee.

Bernie Sanders, a Vermont socialist, won’t be the Democrats’ nominee but he has transformed Hillary Clinton into the incredible shrinking heir apparent.

Of the Republican frontrunner, Henninger wrote:

All of Mr. Trump’s main opponents—Messrs. Bush, Cruz, Rubio and Kasich—were policy wonks. For them, what mattered was hands-on political experience.

Their specific heavy approach didn’t work.  Nor has it worked for Hillary Clinton:

Hillary has tried to be a more rational alternative to Bernie the way all the Republican candidates did with Donald Trump. She’s getting hurt for the same reason: At least half the electorate this year isn’t into hearing how much she knows about policy.

Mr. Henninger sees this as a result of constant media bombardment that puts a premium on minimalism.

From my perspective this is nothing new in either advertising or political campaigning.  It’s about staying on message and keeping it simple.  That has long been a staple of winning elections, and it’s working for Trump and Sanders today.

They know how to connect with people by telling a good and simple story.  They stay on that message and because they have performed far better than anyone (including yours truly) ever thought they could when they announced their candidacy.

I mean who in their right minds was ever going to vote for a self-avowed Socialist or billionaire TV celebrity over more seasoned and experienced candidates?

Millions of voters it turned out.

And not because those voters were crazy or lost it, though some might believe that.  As a Republican myself I thought there had to be something wrong with the people that were supporting Donald Trump.

I know now that’s not the case. After taking a step back and looking at the Republican Presidential Primary from purely a political messaging point of view, I saw very clearly what was happening.

Trump connected with Republican voters that his challengers weren’t able to reach – even though Trump’s opponents have been registered Republicans much longer than the Donald.

The same was happening in the Democratic Presidential Primary with Bernie Sanders who only recently affiliated with the Democratic Party so he could run for president.

Their clear, concise, and yes simple message penetrated the noise of everyday life and struck a chord with their voters of their respective parties.

Looking back over the last generation of presidential campaigns, the candidate who had a simple, clear message won on Election Day.

Ronald Reagan 1980 and 1984.

George Bush 1988.

Bill Clinton 1992

Barack Obama 2008

Running for office you don’t need to copy the substance message of Trump, Sanders, or any other successful candidate for president in the past.  But you should study the style of their messaging and learn how to keep yours simple as well.

It’s a crucial part of winning an election.

You can know all the facts and figures that exist, and you can be the master of policy specifics, hopefully, you are as you’ll need them if elected, but first you need to get elected.

You’ve got to win over the voters and keeping your message simple and to the point will go a long way to accomplishing that, just like it has for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

What is the clearest and most concise way you’ve been able to convey your message to the voters?  Please tell us in the comments to this article.