Dearest America, we Britons think Donald Trump would be a disaster for you. And because you're a big and important country, it would be pretty catastrophic for little old us too.
It can't really happen can it? He's a liar and a racist, as well as volatile and erratic. Surely no civilized country would do this. Although hang on, three months ago something similar happened to us with Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Brexit. So, yes, it can happen, and the way things are going it probably will.
Based on what we experienced with the campaigning around Brexit, there are a number of reasons why Trump could prevail. I'd like to share those with you so action can be taken before it is too late. For the purpose of this article I’ll call the Trumpites "them" or "they" and refer to the rest as "us."
Getting angry will only make "them" more resolute. The Brexit campaign led by David Cameron focused on fear and anger. That was a stupid tactic. "They" are already angry and disaffected. Telling people they are dumb and don't understand the issues at stake is a sure fire way of making them even more determined to go their own way.
Avoid the echo chamber. Joss Whedon's celebrity-filled tongue-in-cheek anti-Trump film was funny and talked about the challenges of a Trump leadership in a calm, clear way. Sadly, it won’t change one voter’s mind. Why? Because it was created by democrats and liberals for democrats and liberals, and it was channeled through the self-serving echo chamber that is social media.
We all socialize predominantly with us, not them. If the presidential elections go the same way as Brexit, you won’t see what’s coming within your social networks. ‘They" feel differently about things and they are not in your network. They probably won't even watch that Joss Whedon film, let alone be affected by it. A lot of smarts are channeled into digital content to get it shared. It seems cost effective and targeted but sadly it achieves very little. Smart campaigns and ideas don't reach the people they need to— the people on the cusp of voting for Trump more out of a dislike for the alternative or a disaffection with the system than any strong orientation towards him as a candidate.
The point can get buried under a mountain of issues. Campaigning across too many issues doesn't work. Instead, it clouds things. Brexit was a complex multi-layered debate that the Remain camp tried to communicate in full. There was too much information, which became too easy to edit out. Lots of choice leads to paralysis. Staying focused on one or two key issues is the challenge.
Get a positive agenda beyond the mudslinging. It is crucial to find something positive and (potentially) unifying to shout about. This is difficult once the mud starts flying. With both Brexit and Trump, the biggest challenge is around apathy. If this is allowed to take hold bad things happen. Hillary bumper stickers aren't as prevalent as the Obama ones were. Worryingly, this is a clear sign of disinterest and disengagement. Where's the hope? Where's the positive message? Where are the Shepard Fairey t-shirts? Positivity has got to be found.
Too many voices drown out the message. Lots of important people from different political backgrounds know Trump is bad news. The entire political spectrum in the UK had the same view on Brexit, but there was a lack of coordination and one-voice, one-platform behavior to back it up. Big business, ex presidents, sensible Republicans and famous personalities all need to align and say the same thing again and again on one platform. Otherwise it's just a million little splinters.
Go to the places where you can make a difference. With the Remain campaign in the UK, the message was national in nature and sweeping in sentiment when it should have been local and personal. In the US, the swing states are siding with 'them'. A concerted voice needs to get to the people who control the swing and talk about what this vote means for their families, their jobs, their pockets, their country and their security. With Brexit, I advocated a strategy of local advice bureaus, local communications and tailored and personal persuasion.
Brexit was won by 52-48. In the immediate aftermath everyone was shocked. The protest voters didn't really want to "win," they wanted to be heard and to feel enfranchised.
The US election is on a knife edge. Take heed and please do learn from our mistakes while there is still time.
--Jon Wilkins is the executive chairman of Karmarama, one of the largest independent advertising agencies in the UK