What Jeb Taught Us: Don't Expect Applause if Your Message Isn't Compelling

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What Jeb Taught Us: Don't Expect Applause if Your Message Isn't Compelling

By Peg E. Ventricelli, Contributing Writer  |  May 23, 2016

It was painful to watch Jeb Bush beseeching his audience at a New Hampshire campaign rally to “please clap” following what he’d hoped would be a rousing speech.

On Feb. 3, the (now former) GOP presidential candidate was obliged to ask for applause after delivering this line: “I think the next president needs to be a lot quieter but send a signal that we’re prepared to act in the national security interests of this country to get back in the business of creating a more peaceful world.”

The lackluster crowd, seemingly embarrassed, kindly brought their hands together. The pathetic display led one CNN correspondent to comment: “This campaign’s got everything besides a candidate that can connect with voters.” 

Connecting with your constituency, while apparently a challenge for Bush, has been the holy grail for marketers since the dawn of marketing. As you know, a lukewarm reception of your marketing message might spell disaster for your brand – just as it did for Bush, who dropped out of the presidential race Feb. 20.

So, what are some of the primary strategies that leading marketers use to keep their brand messages on point, i.e., resonating with consumers? Read on to learn how you can keep your key targets clapping when your brand speaks.


Know your audience. In deciding what you want to create, consider what your key personas want to accomplish as they interact with your brand. That is, do you understand your customers’ pain and pleasure points? Keep in mind as you get going that no vague descriptions are allowed. Data is your friend in this regard. What have your key targets responded well to in the past? Identify patterns in those topics. Then, you’ve got to deliver some new insight that they won’t easily find anywhere else. This is the angle that will draw them in. Make sure it shows up in your captivating headline!

Hook Your Reader – with Empathy

Get at the heart of a customer problem and tell a story about it that builds rapport with your brand. Start by speaking as a human with passion and empathy. A little vignette will do a good job of detailing a particular frustration or ordeal. Your perfect answer to the problem (“Here’s how to avoid this.”) should be so compelling that it will make readers want to share the information. Focus on delivering useful content, not your brand message. Help your customers progress in their personal journey – from awareness of a need, to evaluating options, to purchase, to retention and upselling, even to evangelism. Ahhhh.

Connect with People Emotionally

Think of your brand in terms of moments in your customers’ lives. Consider the touch points when your brand made a special appearance in their homes or communities. Was a high school football player fortified on the sidelines by one of your nutritional products? Or perhaps a new mom relied on your brand’s non-spill cup to get her baby off the bottle. Use an authentic voice to connect with your audience, and describe compelling events to illustrate your brand’s mission, vs. promoting your specific products. Draw in your audience like a classic novel would do: begin with a problem, raise suspense with a twist, and finally end on a positive note with a tip to your business’s major message or idea.

Map Your Content

Content is one of your products, after all, so it needs to be strategized. Start by outlining its ultimate purpose – the business reason for creating the content (e.g., brand awareness, lead generation/nurturing and developing customer loyalty). Then you need to find that sweet spot where your business’s goals intersect with your audience’s real interests. What is the common path that brings you together? Deliver your content for every step customers take along the path ­– but only when needed. This will require your brand to develop a content vision that incorporates the data, technology, and staff to bring the vision to life – and sustain it. And keep in mind that you must measure your results to know if your campaign was a success.

With content that incorporates all these suggestions, you will motivate your key targets to take action and to come back to your brand the next time they have a similar problem.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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