There’s a scene in the movie Inception that I think of often when it comes to crafting a message or a story for a campaign. While discussing the concept of Inception (is it possible to plant an idea in someone’s head so deeply that they think it is their own), the protagonists come to a conclusion: the idea has to be powerful, but simple.

Campaigns aren’t that different.

The weather is warming which means parade season and a wave of campaign ads are just around the corner. With primaries looming and the general election 6 short months away, read between the lines of the messaging to see the real meaning behind the ads.

At the end of the day, politics is a numbers game. You win by engaging with and inspiring more people that agree with you, and persuading those you can to swing your way. There are many ways to reach those people, but the way you persuade them and activate them to go out and vote comes down to something easier said than done: having a compelling message.

It’s easy to talk about a candidate’s position on an issue or what makes them qualified, but making it something that sticks with voters is the challenge. That is the storytelling nature of a campaign.

This is where the concept of simple but powerful comes in.

A compelling message is something that is easily repeatable, sticks with the voter, and is emotional enough to create that feeling of buy-in.

You tell me what is more compelling of the below two statements:

  1. I believe that the Philadelphia 76ers need to replace their head coach. It’s clear his decision making in critical moments was lacking, and that is why the Sixers were eliminated from the second round of the playoffs for the third straight year
  2. Doc Rivers let down the city of Philadelphia this year. It’s clear he has failed to lead this team to the heights that were promised, time is running short to capitalize on this window of talent. Drastic changes are needed to elevate their ceiling.

First of all, forgive me for my temper tantrum about my beloved Sixers.

Now, in my opinion B is clearly the stronger, more compelling statement. Instead of stating my position and listing reasons why, as done in statement A, statement B starts by tearing at the emotions of the recipient. That statement is designed to reach the audience, in this case my fellow Sixers fans, and engage them to also call for a change of leadership. It closes with a “why now” statement that highlights the urgency of why this needs to happen now.

How does this apply to campaigns? Well, you will be seeing it for yourself as ads saturate the TV. Candidates will tug at your heartstrings as to why Candidate A is good and Candidate B is bad and the messaging will be simple, repeatable, and emotional.

PS Please replace Doc Rivers @Sixers. Joel Embiid’s prime will only last for so long.

– Justin Giorgio