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  • Sarah Hunt

Can great copywriting win you an election?

Well, it worked for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez...


Lessons in brilliant copywriting in a documentary about the 2018 US midterm elections? That's just what you find in Knock Down the House, streaming now on Netflix.


It's great, watch it. But if you're pushed for time, skip ahead to about the 47-minute mark.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is sitting on her sofa comparing her election mailer with that of her opponent. She holds them up to the camera...


"What am I trying to get people to do?"


AOC wants people to vote for her. To do this, she needs them to remember two things.

  1. Her name

  2. The date of the election

So what takes up one whole side of her card?

  1. Her name

  2. The date of the election

You can't miss them. You get it.


It's a brilliant lesson in clarity and editing.


If you want customers to know something or do something, tell them.


Cut out the noise. Leave the message.


"Ok, vote for her, why?"


She turns over her mailer and points to the seven bullet points on the back. They're the things she's promising to do.


So what?


The lesson's an oldie but a goodie: show, don't tell.


A list of commitments does more than simply saying, "we're committed." A zeitgeist-capturing article shows that you really understand the market. A cool headline does a lot more for a brand than saying, "we're cool."


Customers will believe it when they see it.


"Deliver is insider talk"


AOC reads from her opponent's mailer. She pauses on the word "delivering". She calls it, "insider talk".


The lesson?


Speak your customers' language.


If you're communicating something complicated, imagine you're explaining it to a friend in a pub. You start with jargon and industry language. "OK, so what does that mean?" they ask.


You make it clearer. They ask again. You change the structure. You use words they would use. They ask again. You make it even clearer. Repeat, repeat, repeat.


When it can't be any clearer? Use that copy.


"The difference between and organiser and a strategist"


Organiser vs. strategist. That's how she summarises the differences.


The lesson?


How you say it matters. It gives your reader subtle clues about the brand you're writing about.


What vocabulary does the brand use? Single words or long paragraphs? Do they sound cool, friendly, old-fashioned?


Does the message match the style?


Customers piece these clues together to create their own idea of the brand. Give them the wrong clues and their idea of the brand won't match yours.


Those lessons again?


Cut out the noise.

Show, don't tell.

Speak your customers' language.

Match message and style.



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