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DEC 15, 2016

DIRECT! SHORT! REPETITIVE! The new rules of communication

By Yoshito Hori

We’re all familiar with the narrative of the recent American election.

Hillary Clinton bought vast amounts of professionally produced TV and Internet advertising. Donald Trump, on the other hand, used social media to communicate directly with the public in impulsive 140-character bursts, in part because he had less money to spend.

Hillary Clinton’s dominance of traditional media channels backfired on her. Targeting slickly made advertisements at specific demographic groups convinced people that her messages were inauthentic, insincere and manipulative.

By contrast, Donald Trump, with his shoot-from-the-hip style, managed to present himself as “real,” “sincere” and “authentic.”

Trump really “got” the three golden rules of modern communication .

1. He communicated DIRECTLY with his followers via Twitter and Facebook.
2. He kept his messages SHORT.
3. He used REPETITION, rolling out the same epithets (“Crooked Hillary”) and phrases (“Build that wall,” “Make America great again,” “Lock her up!”) whenever he could.

This phenomenon of direct, short and repetitive messages beating more sophisticated alternatives can be seen outside politics as well.

For example, have you seen the video of “P-P-A-P” on YouTube? “P-P-A-P,” or “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen’ is a song by an obscure Japanese comedian called Pico Taro. Less than a minute long, it has a simple tune and simple lyrics.

P-P-A-P. I have a pen. I have a apple.
Uh! Apple-pen.

I have a pen. I have pineapple.
Uh! Pineapple-pen.

Apple-Pen. Pineapple-Pen.
Uh! Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen.
Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen.

The video, which cost less than $1,000 to make, has been viewed almost 200 million times. (That’s in part thanks to Justin Bieber, who declared it his “favorite video on the Internet.”)

In late October, P-P-A-P even got official recognition from Guinness World Records as “the shortest song ever to enter the Billboard Hot 100.”

Pico Taro’s success with P-P-A-P points to the same lessons as Trump’s election victory.

—DIRECT delivery via social media beats traditional media channels.
—SHORT messages beat long ones.
—REPETITION makes messages more memorable.

Social media has revolutionized the rules of communication.

Direct, short and repetitive messages now outperform any other kind… So I suppose I’d better bring this article to an end while it’s still under 400 words!

What do you think?