Short Selling, 2018 Edition

“Short Selling: In Words of One Syllable, It Works.” Remember that Fatt Lipp blog post, penned last year? Its crux was that among the many things the most recent U.S. Presidential election taught us, it’s that our leader understands a basic marketing axiom: Short words sell. A decade ago as a reality TV star, it was “You’re Fired.” And in the 2016 campaign, it was “Big,” “Yuge,” “Build That Wall,” “Lock Her Up,” “Drain The Swamp,” and “Fake News.”

Scared Stiff”

Now, for a 2018 update: The strategy that was so spectacularly successful in 2016 is still being employed, and working, two years later. Namely: To win the masses’ hearts, don’t overtax their minds. Stick with small words and avoid all those annoying extra syllables.

It’s funny, but there was a time that government would actually devise lengthy words and phrases to dull the emotional edge of something unappealing or fraught. But the tables have turned. In today’s environment of anger and indignation, of tribalization and polarized partisanship, 45 is rewriting the rhetorical playbook. He’s not seeking to anesthetize the populace with long, antiseptic words; rather, he’s seeking to rile his base with short, emotionally charged ones.


The Russia investigation is a “hoax” and a “rigged witch hunt.” Whipping boy AG Jeff Sessions is “scared stiff.” Omarosa is a “dog” and John Dean is a “rat.” The recent airing of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s youthful, um, exploits? A “big fat con job.”


To illustrate what a flip-flop this represents in sheeple-shaping language, consider this: In the 1980s, when the Administration was trying to sell a potentially unpopular, costly idea for a space-based shield against Soviet missiles, they didn’t call it “Space Shield.” Nope, it was the “Strategic Defense Initiative” (which the press mockingly labeled “Star Wars” from “Ronnie Ray Gun”).

That was then. This is now. When 45 recently announced a new branch of the military, he didn’t deploy the multisyllabic fuzz of years past; he went with a term cartoonish enough for a 6-year-old to understand: “Space Force” (with the announcement tweet heralding “SPACE FORCE ALL THE WAY!”).

Now, before right-leaners jump on me for criticizing a plainspoken leader who pulls no punches and left-leaners nail me for making too light of an orange anti-Christ, the point of all of the above has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with reinforcing the same branding and marketing point that my original post did: namely…

Short sells. Short words, short sentences, short paragraphs, short video clips. Consumers eat it up. Always have. Always will. Whether you’re selling soda pop (Coke Is It), fandom (Let’s Go Mets), or a candidate for public office.




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