Trump Seems Much Better at Branding Opponents Than Marketing Policies

Story image for Marketing from New York Times

Donald J. Trump, the master brander, has never found quite the right selling point for his party’s health care plan.

He has promised “great healthcare,” “truly great healthcare,” “a great plan” and health care that “will soon be great.” But for a politician who has shown remarkable skill distilling his arguments into compact slogans — “fake news,” “witch hunt,” “Crooked Hillary” — those health care pitches have fallen far short of the kind of sharp, memorable refrain that can influence how millions of Americans interpret news in Washington.

Analyzing two years of his tweets highlights a pair of lessons about his messaging prowess that were equally on display as the Republican health care bill, weakly supported by even Republican voters, collapsed again in Congress on Monday. Mr. Trump is much better at branding enemies than policies. And he expends far more effort mocking targetsthan promoting items on his agenda.

Both patterns point to the limits of the president’s branding powers when it comes to waging policy fights. He hasn’t proved particularly adept at selling his party’s ideas — or shown much inclination to turn his Twitter megaphone toward them. He seemed effective in branding his immigration policy during the primary campaign — #BuildTheWall — but even that subject has occupied less of Mr. Trump’s attention on Twitter since he became president than, say, CNN.

By contrast, dating to the campaign, Mr. Trump has been deft at branding his opponents. There is no definitive canon of Mr. Trump’s messaging, but his Twitter feed serves as a reasonable proxy: It’s the social media account he’s best known for, and his use of it helped propel his candidacy. We’ve kept our tabulation of his Twitter insults current throughout his presidency. Using them as a guide – beginning in June 2015, when he declared his candidacy – you’ll notice patterns in how he refers to his political opponents.

Consider Hillary Clinton:

canillegallygetthequestionstotheDebate&delete33,000emailsbutmysonDonisbeingscornedbytheFakeNewsMedia?
gaveourcountryaway
Crooked
Issheallowedtosocollude?
colluded
Crooked
Crooked
aterriblecandidate
DidHillaryClintoneverapologizeforreceivingtheanswerstothedebate?Justasking!
noenthusiasm!
Crooked
Crooked
unfittoserve
decadesofliesandscandal
CrookedHillary’scorruptionisclosingin
Guiltycannotrun
Crooked
abigmistake
Crooked
Crooked
shouldnotbeallowedtorunforpresident
Crooked
CrookedHillary
unfittobepresident
Badjudgement!
Wemustnotlet#CrookedHillarytakeherCRIMINALSCHEMEintotheOvalOffice
launchedherpoliticalcareerbylettingterroristsoffthehook
Crooked
Hillarysaidshewasundersniperfire(whilesurroundedbyUSSS.)Turnedouttobeatotallie.Sheisnotfittoleadourcountry
CrookedH
wantstotakeinasmanySyriansaspossible
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
FAILEDALLOVERTHEWORLD
lovestolie
She’llsayanythingandchangeNOTHING!
aWallStreetPUPPET!
Crooked
hasnevercreatedajobinherlife
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
aforeignpolicyDISASTER
youhavefailed,failed,andfailed
nosolutions,noideas,nocredibility
tooweaktolead
themostcorruptpersontoeverrunforthepresidencyoftheUnitedStates
IfweletCrookedrunthegovt,historywillremember2017astheyearAmericalostitsindependence
SoCROOKED
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Suchadishonestperson
Crooked
crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
SOCORRUPT!
Crooked
shouldbeinjail
Crooked
PAYTOPLAYPOLITICS
Crooked
Crooked
Fraud
Crooked
Crooked
unfittorun
disgracefulbehavior
Crooked
Hypocrite
Hypocrite!
nothingHillaryhassaidabouthersecretserverhasbeentrue
there’sneverbeenanythinglikeyourlies
IfIwin-IamgoingtoinstructmyAGtogetaspecialprosecutortolookintoyoursituation
Crooked
hasonlycreatedjobsattheFBIandDOJ!
Crooked
OwnedbyWallStandPoliticians
Crooked
nastytoSanderssupportersbehindcloseddoors
Crooked
Crooked
suffersfromBADJUDGEMENT!
terrible!
Crooked
failingfor30years
notgettingthejobdone
Crooked
failedallovertheworld
alltalk,noaction
atypicalpolitician
takingthedayoffagain,sheneedstherest
putstheplanebehindherlikeIhavebeendoingfromthebeginning
copyingmyairplanerallies
Crooked
Crooked
saidhorriblethingsaboutmysupporters
SOINSULTINGtomysupporters
Crooked
verydumb
Unfittoserveas#POTUS
totallyconfused
justgaveadisastrousnewsconference
Lyin’
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
doesn’thavethestrengthorthestaminatoMAKEAMERICAGREATAGAIN!
doesn’thavethedriveorstaminatoMAKEAMERICAGREATAGAIN!
Crooked
brainpowerishighlyoverrated,decisionmakingissobad
hasBADJUDGEMENT
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
calledAfrican-Americanyouth“SUPERPREDATORS”
willNEVERbeabletosolvetheproblemsofpoverty,educationandsafety
Crooked
SABOTAGEOFTHEINNERCITIES
CORRUPTION
Nopolicy
onlyknowshowtomakeaspeechwhenitisahitonme
usingtheoldestplayintheDemplaybook
alltalkandNOACTION!
usingrace-baiting
Sheshouldbeashamedofherself!
panderingtotheworstinstinctsinoursociety
fear-mongering!
lies
crooked
LIE!
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
notatalentedpersonorpolitician
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
notfittobeournextpresident!
Crooked
Anybodywhosemind‘SHORTCIRCUITS’isnotfittobeourpresident!Lookuptheword‘BRAINWASHED.
Crooked
Verydangerous!
unfittoserveasPresident
badjudgment
incompetent
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
APATHOLOGICALLIAR!
100%ownedbyherdonors
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
hasverysmallandunenthusiasticcrowdsinPennsylvania
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
aformulafordisaster!
Crooked
Crooked
alosecannon
extraordinarilybadjudgement&insticts
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
verylongandveryboringspeech
Crooked
Crooked
noonehasworsejudgement
corruptionanddevastationfollowsher
ownedbyWallStreet!
unfittoleadthecountry
Crooked
wantstofloodourcountrywithSyrianimmigrantsthatweknowlittleornothingabout
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
aliar!
incompetent
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
betrayedBernievoters
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
judgementsobad
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
notatallloyal
Crooked
BADJUDGEMENT
Crooked
Crooked
killedjobs!
Againststeelworkersandminers
destroyedjobsandmanufacturing
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
lookatallofthebaddecisionsshehasmade
Crooked
ledObamaintobaddecisions!
Crooked
boughtandpaidforbyWallStreet,lobbyistsandspecialinterests
Crooked
willsellourcountrydownthetubes!
Crooked
hasmadesomanymistakes
embarrassedherselfandthecountrywithhere-maillies
Crooked
aDISASTERonforeignpolicy
Crooked
emaillies
negativeadsarenottrue
fraudulent
Crooked
Crooked
Sad!!
HavingZEROimpact
Crooked
Lyin’
Crooked
notqualified
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
notqualified!
Crooked
WEAKleadership
Crooked
lies
Lyin’Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
soooooguilty
liedtotheFBIandtothepeopleofourcountry
Crooked
incompetent
Crooked
verybadjudgement
dishonest
Crooked
Notfit!
BADJUDGEMENT!
unfittoserveasPresident
Crooked
Hertemperamentisweak
Crooked
Asusual,badjudgment.
Atotaldisgrace!
Crooked
guiltyashell
Crooked
willNEVERbeabletohandlethecomplexitiesanddangerofISIS
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
AsBernieSanderssaid,HillaryClintonhasbadjudgement.Bill’smeetingwasprobablyinitiatedanddemandedbyHillary!
sellngoutAmerica
Notcapable!
ill-fit
badjudgment
Presidencywouldbecatastrophic
Lying
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
nosenseofmarkets
Crooked
suchbadjudgement
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Disgraceful!
badjudgement
Crooked
Alltalk,noaction!
Crooked
Crooked
wouldbeadisaster
maybethemostcorruptpersonevertoseekthepresidency
willbeadisasterforjobsandtheeconomy!
Crooked
dishonest
dangerous
Corrupt
defraudedAmerica
judgementhaskilledthousands,unleashedISISandwreckedtheeconomy
Crooked
badjudgment
failedpolicies
totallyunfittobeourpresident
reallybadjudgementandatemperament
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
willbeadisaster
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
totalfraud!
Crooked
Crooked
recordissobad,unabletoanswertoughquestions!
verybadanddestructivetrackrecord
badjudgement
unfittobepresident
poorleadershipskills
Nothonest!
Crooked
doesn’tevenlookpresidential!
Readingpoorlyfromthetelepromter!
Crooked
Badperformance
toomuchfailureinoffice
nolongerhascredibility
Crooked
Crooked
Lyin’
hasmadesomanymistakes
Crooked
Crooked
BADjudgement!
decisionmakingability-zilch!
zeronaturaltalent
Crooked
temperamentisbad
verystupiduseofe-mails
fraud
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
badjudgementandtemperament
Crooked
Crooked
CROOKED
Crooked
suffersfromplainoldbadjudgement!
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
herjudgementhasbeenproventobesobad!
Wouldbefourmoreyearsofstupidity!
notqualified
Wrong!
recklessanddangerous
Crooked
verydishonest
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
hasnochance!
zeroimaginationandevenlessstamina
ISIS,China,Russiaandallwouldloveforhertobepresident
Crooked
Crooked
afraud
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
can’tclosethedealwithBernieSanders
Crooked
Crooked
Can’tbelieveshewouldmisrepresentthefacts!
Crooked
Liar!
Crooked
can’tclosethedealonCrazyBernie
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
hasbadjudgment!
Crooked
pushingthefalsenarrativethatIwanttoraisetaxes
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
Crooked
corrupt
badjudgement
ZEROleadershipability
Constantlyplayingthewomen’scarditissad!
Crooked
saidsheisusedto“dealingwithmenwhogetoffthereservation.”Actually,shehasdonepoorlywithsuchmen!
Crooked
Crooked
oneofthealltimegreatenablers!
perhapsthemostdishonestpersontohaveeverrunforthepresidency
Crooked
Crooked
unqualifiedtobepresident
incompetent
hasbeeninvolvedincorruptionformostofherprofessionallife!
WhoshouldstarinarebootofLiarLiar-HillaryClintonorTedCruz?Letmeknow
notpresidentialmaterial
amajornationalsecurityrisk
suchbadjudgement
liedlastweek
doesn’thavethestrengthorstaminatobepresident
totallyflawedcandidate
stupidity
pathetic
SAD!
LIEDatthedebatelastnight
Weneeda#POTUSwithgreatstrength&stamina.Hillarydoesnothavethat
lied
disloyalperson
nostrength,nostamina
weakandineffective
doesnothavetheSTRENGTHorSTAMINAtobePresident
won’tcalloutradicalIslam
willbesoundlydefeated
afraidofObama&theemails
SHEHASNOSTRENGTHORSTAMINA
weak
corruptioniswhatshe’sbestat
nostrengthorstamina
totallyincompetentasamanagerandleader
shelookedlost
herrecordissobad
thetradedealisadisaster,shewasalwaysforit!
100%CONTROLLED
Justcan’treadspeeches!

The word choice is memorable. But it’s also the repetition that’s important. In its simplicity and consistency, that message is textbook marketing, said William Cron, a professor of marketing at Texas Christian University. “This is what the product stands for,” he said (Mrs. Clinton being the product in this case). Marketing research also suggests that the more we’re exposed to a belief or a brand, the more likely we are to believe that others share or use it. And so by repeating the slogan, Mr. Trump also feeds the notion that Mrs. Clinton is widely believed to be crooked.

Psychologists have another term for what Mr. Trump does here that is so effective. He “essentializes” Mrs. Clinton and his other opponents, like Lyin’ Ted Cruz.

Lyin’,heshoulddropoutoftherace-stopwastingtime&money
Sad!
Madeallsortsofcrazycharges
reallywentwackotoday
Lyin’
Can’tfunctionunderpressure
notverypresidential
Lyin’,canneverbeatHillaryClinton
hasNOpathtovictory
canneverbeatHilaryClinton
Lyin’
desperate
weak
hastoteamupwithaguywhoopenlycan’tstandhim
mathematicallydeadandtotallydesperate
Lyin’
DropoutLYIN’Ted
allhecandoisbeaspoiler,neveranicethingtodo
hatesNewYork
Lyin’
Hillarywoulddestroyhim
can’twinwiththevoterssohehastosellhimselftothebosses
Lyin’
Lyin’
can’tgetvotes(Iammillionsaheadofhim)
hastogethisdelegatesfromtheRepublicanbosses
willneverbeabletobeatHillary
Lyin’
Despiteariggeddelegatesystem,Iamhundredsofdelegatesaheadofhim
attackedNewYorkersandNewYorkvalues-wedon’tforget!
weak
losingbig
justanotherdishonestpolitician
lyin’
Mormonsdon’tlikeLIARS!
Lyin’
WhoshouldstarinarebootofLiarLiar-HillaryClintonorTedCruz?Letmeknow
abigproblem!
lyin’
desperate
can’twin!
hislyingisgettingworse
lyin’
Lyin’
boughtandpaidforbylobbyists!
LYIN’TED
anotheralltalk,noactionpol!
hehasaccomplishedabsolutelynothing
lying
choker
loser
anastyguy
liar
lieslikeadog-overandoveragain!
doesnothavetheright‘temperment’tobePresident
disloyal
biggestliarinpolitics!
aworldclassLIAR
atruelowlifepol!
lying
aliar!
complete&totalliar
holdstheBiblehighandthenliesandmisrepresentsthefacts!
acheater!
LIES!
Nasty
cheater
Ihavestandingtosuehimfornotbeinganaturalborncitizen
liessomuchandissodishonest
theworstliar,crazyorverydishonest
caughtcoldinlie
shouldbeimmediatelydisqualifiedinIowa
justliedagain
toldthousandsofcaucusgoers(voters)thatTrumpwasstronglyinfavorofObamaCareand‘choice’atotallie!
fraud
sentoutaVOTERVIOLATIONcertificatetothousandsofvoters
didn’twinIowa,heillegallystoleit
lyingonsomanylevels
totallyunelectable
deceptive
dishonest
NotoneSenatorisendorsingCanadaTed!
can’tevengetaSenatorlike@BenSasse,whoiseasy,toendorsehim
willdoanythingtostayatthetrough
droppinglikearock
reckless
anervouswreck
notcaringforthetruth
inbedw/WallSt.
puppet!
peopledonotlikeTed
anervouswreck
fallinginthepolls
spending$millionsonadspaidforbyhisN.Y.bosses
hypocrite
greatlydishonest
Whenwill@TedCruzgivealltheNewYorkbasedcampaigncontributionsbacktothespecialintereststhatcontrolhim
hypocrite
whydidheacceptmoneyfrompeoplewhoespousegaymarriage?
saysonethingformoney,doesanotherforvotes
theultimatehypocrite
didnotlistonhispersonaldisclosureformpersonallyguaranteedloansfrombanks.Theyownhim!
TheTedCruzwiseguyapologytothepeopleofNewYorkisadisgrace
notmuchofareformer
GoldmanSachsownshim
notbelievable
notnice
wouldspeakbehindmyback,getcaught,andthendenyit
shouldnotmakestatementsbehindcloseddoorstohisbosses
hewillfalllikeallothers

His use of this phrase implies a subtle but important distinction: It’s not merely that Mr. Cruz tells lies; rather, lying is essential to who Ted Cruz is.

Mrs. Clinton didn’t just commit a crime (in Mr. Trump’s telling); she’s crooked to the core.

Elizabeth Warren doesn’t simply espouse foolish ideas, in his argument; she can’t be taken seriously at all.

Sadtowatch
bombedlastnight!
Pocahontas
Pocahontas
wantedV.P.slotsobadlybutwasn’tchosenbecauseshehasdonenothingintheSenate
Pocahontas
averyweakSenator
Goofy
Pocahontas
Goofy
theleastproductiveSenatorintheU.S.Senate
Goofy
goofy
oneoftheleastproductivesenators
Veryracist!
Goofy
hasanastymouth
oneoftheleastproductiveU.S.Senators
Goofy
Alltalk,noaction!
Totalhypocrite!
lowlife!
Goofy
shedoesn’thaveaclue
IfitwereuptogoofyElizabethWarren,we’dhavenojobsinAmerica
goofy
failedSenator
getsnothingdone
lied
OurNativeAmericanSenator
goofycouldn’tcarelessabouttheAmericanworker
doesnothingtohelp!
usingthewoman’scard
didn’thavethegutstorunforPOTUS
Goofy
phonyNativeAmericanheritage
didn’thavethegutstorunforPOTUS
Goofy
phonyNativeAmericanheritage
hasdonenothing!
oneoftheleasteffectiveSenatorsintheentireU.S.Senate
Goofy
Alltalk,noactionmaybeherNativeAmericanname?
Doesnothing
weakandineffective
Goofy
phonyNativeAmericanheritage
Goofy
hasacareerthatistotallybasedonalie
HillaryClinton’sflunky
Goofy
goofy
afraud!
goofy

This is the important difference between using a descriptive verb (“Ted Cruz tells lies”) and a noun label (“Lyin’ Ted”). Such minor manipulations of language, psychological research shows, can convey much more deep-seated, stable and central characteristics about a subject. And these labels preclude other identities.

[Source”GSmerena”]