Current Affairs

“Trumped”: Get Your Narrative Right and You Could Win the White House

Love him or hate him, few would disagree that Donald Trump is a master storyteller. Politics aside, Trump was the true underdog both within and outside of his own party.

Obama and many others skewered him in public. The media would often sway between sensationalism to downright skepticism in their reporting of all things Trump. Yet what the skeptics didn’t know or understand was that Trump was playing right into the hands of the American electorate.

People love the underdog story. Most can identify with what it’s like to be the outsider. It seemed that no matter what Trump said or did, he couldn’t lose. And people want to support a winner.

Perhaps even Trump himself was surprised that he was able to win over America to claim the highest office in the land. The fact is that Donald Trump is a genius at getting inside the zeitgeist of a population and in reading what it is exactly that people want. And it was time for change. Fed up with the status quo and their place in life, Trump gave his supporters what they wanted to hear. Like Superman rushing to save the screaming masses from a burning building, he was their hero and promised to fix things if they gave him a chance.

Many underestimated Trump. What his opponents and skeptics did was fail to see that through his storytelling and ability to read the current narrative playing out in America, he was able to tap into something so deep that no one else was able to reach it.

While there were many reasons that led to Trump’s victory, from a story perspective he hit all the right buttons.

Here’s what Trump did right:

  1. He tapped into people’s emotions and took them on an emotional journey. Great stories are built on great characters and he was able to create a persona for himself that instinctively drew people to his rallies by the tens of thousands
  2. He focused on what was really going on with the American people in a way that more seasoned politicians just failed to see. He read the narrative and followed the script. America was fed up and wanted to be great again. Trump offered a way out and his unconventional personality was able to draw people to his ideas
  3. His journey had many similarities to those experienced by heroes in the classic book by Christopher Vogler “The Writer’s Journey.” It’s almost as if Trump’s actions followed those in a dramatic movie script. There was a Call to Action, which led to the Hero’s Journey. Along the way, there were antagonists (or one key one – Hillary Clinton), tests, allies and enemies. After numerous challenges the hero crosses the threshold and returns with the ultimate prize – the White House

To quote Campbell, “Every storyteller bends the mythic pattern to his own purpose or the needs of her culture. That’s why the hero has a thousand faces.”

Great stories are mythic in nature and speak directly to the human spirit.They tap into a mythological core that teaches us something about ourselves.

From a storytelling perspective, Trump nailed it on all levels. Add to that his brand of authenticity yet unseen in the world of Washington politics and he proved to be a worthy opponent.

For Donald Trump, his final act is yet to be written. In the meantime, there will be more tests, allies and enemies along the way as he leaves the ordinary world and prepares to enter the brand new world of politics.




Brand USA: What Canadians Can Learn From the American Mindset

In today's global environment, the difference between the way Americans and Canadians think is becoming increasingly clear. As a long time member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), I often look to my peers for thoughts on industry trends. To get an American opinion, I'll often target senior communicators (IABC members) who work for well-known global brands like Coke and Southwest Airlines. It's amazing that, in every case, I get a well-crafted response from American communicators. And these aren't juniors. Titles range from Senior VP's of Development and Communications to Global Brand Managers.

Outside of the IABC, I will often send links to my articles or blogs to Americans who might benefit from the information. Again, in virtually every case, I get a return response and thank you for a job well done. Now here's the question of the day - Why can't I get similar responses from Canadian companies?

I'm not here to knock down Canadians, because there are some people who actually take the time to respond. But many won't. Consider the job hunt. I find it hard to believe that someone is so busy, that they can't take 30 seconds out of their day to respond to an inquiry email. If the Global VP of Brand Marketing for Coke can respond to one of my emails, so can Canadian communicators.

What is it that makes many (but not all) Canadians and Canadian companies different? Is it because most live by the status quo - and don't want to be bothered with even looking at a new way of thinking? A recent article in Marketing Magazine talked about the brain drain to the USA. Not surprising. Often while attending industry events, I hear people say that they've given up on dealing with Canadian companies - and get all their work from Americans.

As a writer, I often follow comments posted by readers in major newspapers. There seems to be a clear pattern emerging with many Canadians. There's a claim to an almost moral superiority over Americans in business, culture and politics. To that I say hogwash. I see it more as a form of missplaced arrogance and ignorance over the good things we can learn from Americans. In my global travels, it's always been the Americans who, to me, have been the nicest and most receptive people both personally - as well as business-wise.

Perhaps it's time for Canada and Canadians to wake up from their slumber. I know that nationalism and passion for our country are in us. For once though, I'd like to see this passion rising from something other than hockey and conversations about daily trips to Tim Hortons.