‘For the many not the few’. Six words.
It didn’t cut through.
Labour got trounced.
‘A programme of radical social change.’ Also six words.
Long, complicated, and waffley.
It also didn’t cut through.
Labour got trounced.
People, when discussing politics (unless they’re well-informed, a political commentator, a journalist, or all of these things), don’t talk like that in the pub, in restaurants, in their lounge – the places they’re likely to discuss politics with family and friends.
No-one is going to turn to their mate, on the sofa, and say, ‘I like Labour as they’re for the many and not the few’ or ‘I like their programme of radical social change’.
If they did, they’d likely be stared at, slapped, or called a wanker – or all three.
Unfortunately, ‘for the many not the few’ and ‘a programme of radical social change’ would’ve sounded great in Labour’s campaigning office(s), but didn’t go that one step further before leaving the office, to be more palatable to the public.
Both phrases still sound awkward and spin doctor-ish, like they just got emailed across by a PR agency, but hadn’t been reviewed and tweaked yet.
There were honourable intentions behind both phrases, but they were too clunky to make any real headway.
Enter the fray Dominic Cummings – a very clever man: a man able to distil the most complex of issues (leaving the EU, for example) into simple, easily digestible, takeaway lines.
And, luckily for the Conservatives, a man who was Chief Special Adviser to Boris Johnson during the 2019 general election campaign.
This is a man who understands language and its subtle nuances, in terms of persuading people to do what you want.
This is a man who – without being one – has the heart of a marketeer.
This is a man who has clearly read books like Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind, Hey Whipple Squeeze This, How To Write Great Copy, and many others besides.
He’s the master of communication – cutting through the crap to talk in small soundbites, the way people (voters) talk: creating phrases they can even say themselves, in the pub/on the sofa, as if it were they who came up with it (this being the ‘reward’ bit – making people feel engaged with politics: intelligent).
For Brexit, this simple communication came in the form of a three-word strapline: ‘take back control’.
That was it – nothing more, nothing less: the EU is this big, overbearing organisation, telling us what to do, so let’s ‘take back control’ from them.
Dominic Cummings boiled 43 years of membership and all problems relating to it, into three simple words.
It worked: Britain voted to leave the EU.
And he did it again for the 2019 general election. Through the mouth of the affable, foppish, charismatic Boris Johnson, he promised we would ‘Get Brexit done’.
In getting Brexit done, we would ‘unleash the potential’ of the country.
And if we chose to vote Labour, there would be more ‘dither and delay’ over Brexit.
All simple, three-word soundbites – all swallowed up by the public: the Conservatives eased to a landslide victory.
In fact, if you think about it, if Dominic Cummings had been working for Labour, it’s likely that ‘for the many not the few’ would’ve simply become ‘make society fairer’ – or something similar.
But all he’s doing is applying the same rule that applies to brands: a simple, three-word strapline (or endline, if it’s a campaign) always cuts through.
The power of three:
Veni, vidi, vici
Just Do It
Beanz Meanz Heinz
Finger Lickin’ Good
Impossible Is Nothing.
Dominic Cummings – a man you want on your side if you’re looking to communicate with people.