How to Write a Losing Slogan: Starring Hillary Clinton

There are ways to do slogans, and there are ways NOT to do them. Hillary Clinton doesn’t know how to do them. The first rule in copywriting is simple – have a good headline or go home. In politics, your slogan is your headline.

What do you want to do with a slogan? You want to capture attention. First impressions count for everything. If you don’t capture attention immediately, kiss most of your attempts at influencing someone goodbye. Open the window and throw money out. You might as well do that. In the case of most advertisers, that’s what they are doing. It’s also what Hillary Clinton is doing.

The slogan Hillary Clinton chose for her 2016 campaign is “Hillary for America.” It’s cringeworthy.

Hillar Clinton for America will lose terrible slogan

Trying to put myself in the shoes of an unbiased observer as best I can, my immediate reaction would be – “so what? Pass.”

It’s way, way, way worse than her 2008 slogan, “Solutions for America!” At least that one arouses some curiosity and removes the salesperson from the equation. The initial focus is on these “solutions.”

Her 2016 slogan however, is all about her. This is a terrible thing to do. One of the first rules of marketing, which I learned from Craig Proctor (one of the most successful real estate brokers in the world), was that you need to remove yourself as the salesman from the equation. Everything should be focused on the buyer and his or her needs. We avoid salespeople like the plague on instinct. This is probably doubly so if your name is Hillary Clinton.

In other words, Hillary Clinton’s skills as a candidate have gotten worse, not better, since 2008.

Trump’s slogan, in contrast, “Make America Great Again,” hits all the perfect notes to create an orchestra for the current political market.

First, it sells to the spirit of the times, which is one of pessimism, but also offers a lofty, positive vision, an incentive for something to work toward. This incentive is then hammered home by the call to action within the slogan, the easily identifiable verb “make.”

Read between the lines. The slogan isn’t about Donald Trump making America great again. It’s about YOU making America great again. The salesperson is completely removed from the equation. Donald Trump hammers it all home with his rallies and most of his other public appearances. I’ve never once heard him say “I’m going to make America great again” at a rally. He always says “we’re going to make America great again.”

Immediately you think – “that’s right, we lost our way, but we’re going to get it back by our own hard work.” This speaks directly to the American psyche, founded in that old Protestant work ethic.

It also puts you on a team with those other individuals that are making America great again, and incentivizes you to defeat the opposing team trying to prevent that from happening.

While Hillary Clinton’s old slogan “solutions for America” was better, it still suffered from the the implication of the salesperson being involved in the equation, who would presumably grant these “solutions.” The word “solutions” also isn’t a very strong call to action (it’s a noun, not a verb), so it’s missing a key ingredient.

“Hillary for America” on the other hand, says nothing. There’s nothing in it for the buyer except reminding you of someone that most people dislike.

Where’s the social proof? Where’s the call to action? How does it create a team? Where’s the vision? What’s in it for the buyer?

Hillary Clinton answers none of these questions with her slogan. At least her 2008 slogan attempted to answer one of them.

I’ll quote someone in an exchange I had elsewhere:

Trump: “Make American Great Again”

Clinton: “Vote for meeeeeeeeeee!”

You can’t sum it up more succinctly than that. It’s basically been what the campaign has been all about, from the perspective of power and marketing, since Hillary Clinton announced last year.

Consider this part one of my “why Hillary will lose” series. All the signs show that Hillary Clinton is running into a buzzsaw. Assuming Trump doesn’t sabotage himself and that there’s actually a fair election, Hillary Clinton doesn’t stand a chance.

If she wants to catch up, she better get up to speed fast. I dive much more deeply into sloganeering, other candidates’ slogans, and their importance in working a crowd in Stumped. Read it if you want to learn how to actually write good headlines that move people to act at your command.