How strong, overarching ideas turned presidential pretenders into contenders


Photos courtesy of Gage Skidmore and Phil Roeder.

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Not too many gave presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders much of a chance at the start of their campaigns.

Most thought Trump’s immigration reform ideas would build a wall between him and Republicans before it would build an actual barrier between undocumented immigrants and America. As many thought Sanders’ free healthcare initiative would raise anxiety amongst Democrats before it would raise actual support.

Yet, here we are, in the middle of January, less than two months away from the primaries, and Trump and Sanders are among the leading candidates to represent their parties.

Even more shocking, perhaps, is how two candidates (as opposite as they come) became real contenders by doing the same thing right – the same thing Obama did with “Hope” in 2008.

Both are defying the odds by using what’s known in the advertising world as an overarching or big idea.

Big Idea: An attempt to communicate a brand, product, or concept to the general public by creating a strong message that pushes brand boundaries and resonates with the consumers.

Trump’s big idea is “Make America Great Again” and Sanders’ is a “Political Revolution.” Fittingly, these ideas are as different as the policies these politicians propose. Similarly, however, is strategy or what’s in the advertising world is known as “one thought” from which these ideas were conceived.

One thought: The single most important thing to communicate to your consumer.

This is where insight comes to play, or deep understanding of one’s target consumers or in this case, constituents. Trump’s constituents are generally traditionalists and particularly inflexible when it comes to the constitution. For them, initiatives like Obamacare and gun control violate their constitutional rights. To them, America was at its best when it was close to its inception. That’s why “Let’s make America great again” is the perfect slogan for Trump’s campaign.

Sander’s constituents, on the other hand, tend to be younger, liberal, and generally more progressive. If there was a “better” time in America, most of them weren’t alive to witness it. The America they know, at least when it comes to politics, consists of a bunch rhetoric and political ping-pong, which leads to no real change. They feel the system doesn’t work. From here, Sanders’ “political revolution” was born.

It’s easy to nit pick candidates based off of party antics and back and forth debates. But in this case it’s much more interesting to evaluate what they are doing right, and that’s the big idea.

By Brent Blair, @Brent_Blair

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