Ian Pullen

Lessons from US pressidents

Before we dig in:

If you are in the US, and are taken to blaming “Republicans!” or “Democrats!” (or “Trump!” or now “Biden!”) for your problems, I recommend you shut off your feels for the next few minutes and rationally take in the lessons you can learn from the following presidents who, I believe, are amongst the most persuasive in American history.

You don’t have to “like” any of them.

I don’t like but maybe a couple on the list.

But there is a reason why many of them were loved & despised in equal parts…

GEORGE WASHINGTON — The General showed zero neediness. And it’s because he had a Mission he pursued relentlessly, against all odds, and even at great personal risk to his fortune and life. I doubt 1 in 10,000,000 (and that’s being generous) people understand just how impossible the odds were for him to have lived to see the Revolutionary War, much less pulling off what he did to win it, or how he kept the Republic from falling apart before it even began. I have always enjoyed studying U.S. history and admittedly didn’t really “get” it until reading his biography.

The guy was far from perfect obviously.

And lived in a constant state of cognitive dissonance.

But he did have a Mission.

And a marketer who has a Mission, and passionately pursues it, is automatically more persuasive and inspires people to take action.

i.e., buy…

ABRAHAM LINCOLN — The late, great Jim Camp was especially fascinated by Lincoln’s ability to influence and persuade. Including how he was able to pithily create vision to motivate people, as well as his purposely making himself “un-okay” (more on this below) to make people he wished to persuade comfortable around him.

TEDDY ROOSEVELT — His sheer brass yarbles inspired loyalty, making him far more persuasive than the average man. His Bruce Wayne-like backstory is a doozy too — how he was a weak, skinny, sickly man, went to live in the forest, and came back a superhero. It’s the essence of any good sales letter story and worthy of study.

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT — Not a big fan of FDR, but he is a perfect example of someone who understood how, if you don’t have what you need to make the sale, you go out and get it. i.e., packing the courts to get his agenda across.

Marketers can do the same thing.

Product weak?

Make it better. (Or tell the client how to make it better.)

Offer lacking?

Find (or create) bonuses and incentives to make your offer appealing and so legitimately valuable people buy just for those alone.

Pack your offers like FDR packed the court and you’ll win.

JOHN F. KENNEDY — Not only was this Democrat amusingly farther to the Right than most Republicans are today, but I can’t help but think he’d have made a great social media guy. Not only did he have the charisma (many political scientists agree had his debate with Nixon not have been televised, he would have lost)… but he oozed inspiration with his big ideas and goals. Attributes that will make any marketer more persuasive.

RONALD REAGAN — Despite his gaffes, bumbling, and misspeaking, he was known as the Great Communicator. Why? Because he could relate to the people (his market) better than depressing, sweater-wearing “we’ll cry together” weakling Jimmy Carter or boring-as-sin Walter Mondale.

But, Rappin’ Ron’s greatest persuasion tool?

Being un-okay.

Being un-okay is an extremely powerful tool of persuasion.

And if you aren’t using it in your emails and sales copy (and other marketing) I suspect you are leaving a lot of sales and response on the table.

BILL CLINTON — I have no trouble believing what his biographers (and even enemies) say about him always being the most empathetic (real or manufactured) guy in the room. And empathy can do more for your persuasive abilities than almost anything else can. He was also great at rebranding (i.e. “New Democrat.”) And, he was an underdog story, too, if you study how he won the first election — Ross Perot siphoning off votes away from Bush notwithstanding. And nothing sells better than an underdog story in sales copy and emails.

Even more impressive:

He skirted right past #metoo a few years ago.

All the intellectually dishonest “I believe all women!” schlubs didn’t seem to care about all of Bubba’s accusers. Having that D before one’s name forgives a lot of sins, apparently. And when called on it, they predictably pulled the cowardly “whataboutism!!” card.

That’s some serious Narrative game on Clinton’s part.

And Narrative-building is a powerful marketing tool in and of itself.

BARACK OBAMA — Due to timing & national fatigue with Bush(es) he had near perfect message-to-market match game – the most important thing you can have going for you in marketing & copywriting – in 2008. Which let him sail right through without even needing to say anything substantive. When you have chicks feinting at speeches, probably you are doing something right in the persuasion & influence department.

His team’s email fundraising ability was especially incredible.

I can already hear a Millennial who thinks direct marketing was invented on Facebook:

“What about Obama’s social media game???”

What about it?

His own team admitted email brought in the most money.

To the tune of nearly a billion in donations…

Social media simps take note.

DONALD TRUMP — Which brings us to the Donald. He ran tight message-to-market match game, and had the same kind of timing Obama did, too. Plus, he’s also the master of polarization and at making sure nobody is indifferent to him.

He was hated, loved, mocked, and revered… but never ignored.

People in the media still fear he will return like a bad rash.

People were literally kicked off of Facebook just because they supported him. (Troy Broussard’s 82-year old mother got suspended just for posting something positive about him, and another of his clients almost lost her entire business tied to her Facebook group just for telling a Trump-hating friend of hers to please put their friendship over politics — didn’t even mention Trump — which resulted in dozens of creepy lurkers flagging her for “abuse.” Now THAT is polarization!)

Bottom line?

You can learn a lot about persuasion from popular presidents.

Yes, especially the ones you despise most…