Is Your Message Clear and Different or Boring and The Same?

Alan Belniakbusiness, General, guidelines, mediaLeave a Comment

Joe Smith from the Acme political party says... (as seen on

Joe Smith from the Acme political party says...

Recently, the political ad you see in this image was stuffed inside the front door of my house.  I added the blue boxes to protect the name.  This isn’t a dig at this particular candidate or an endorsement of one party over another.  I’m commenting on the messaging (I’ve written about that in the past here and here).


Something strange happened as I sat down to write this post, though.  I went into it with a pretty determined line of reasoning – a pretty firm opinion.  Then, as I was making tweaks to the picture, another thought popped in my head.  I stopped for a moment, ruminated on it, and thought this new position to be just as plausible as the first.  So, this is a point/counter-point post, but both views are written by me.


Point: The Messaging is Bland and The Candidate’s Position Is the Same as The Others

My first reaction to this ad was: “Oh really?  Like you’re the only one?”  In fact, despite obfuscating the candidate’s name, you almost can’t even tell with which party s/he is affiliated (save one reference to an item that is typically a ‘red’ issue).  This candidate wants to make the voter the center of attention (of course), is interested in improving the economy (who isn’t?), and restore integrity (a good ol’ family value).   Well – who running for office doesn’t want this?  This reminds me of one of my favorite books back in my 20s called ‘Idiot Letters’ (click ‘Look Inside’ and head to the first few pages).  The book started by the author noticing an ad from a pizza chain stating “You’re the kind of customer we’d like to see back.”  His visceral response was, “What kind of customer don’t you want to see back?!”  I feel the same here.  Who doesn’t want to lower taxes, improve the economy, …

My takeaway: If your message isn’t differentiated from anyone else’s, and I can cover your name up and not tell you apart from the others, you haven’t done a good job of selling yourself.


Counterpoint: The Message Of The Entire Campaign is Distilled Into 17 Words

Many of your competitors are blathering on and on about what they will do, change, start, and/or stop.  Their messaging is complex and long-winded.  It’s in a 12-point font on large paper.  You, however, tell me in only seventeen words what your core value proposition is.  I don’t get bored.  You get to the point.

My takeaway: Your message is clear and readable.  I understand it.  I can repeat it to someone else.


Despite me channeling F. Scott Fitzgerald, this still leaves an issue, though.  If each of these critiques is equally plausible (you, the reader, judge that), then I argue that this candidate is in a poor position.  That is to say, the messaging isn’t clear enough to make me conclude only one position.  It’s leading me to two positions.


What do you think?  Am I over-analyzing this?  Or does this political ad cause you a bit of Jekyll ‘n Hyde?


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