Why I Think Warren Failed


So our candidate of choice is out, which is a bummer. And there is a lot of speculation as to why Elizabeth Warren’s campaign didn’t succeed. I’d like to throw out my own theory why:

He messaging was terrible.

OK, stay with me; I’ll explain. But before I do, let me start by saying that I’m actually an expert on the subject. I’ve worked in marketing for over 20 years as a creative director, and messaging is my forte.

In fact….I will now present…

(A lesson for politicians)

Messaging Lesson #1: Use Active Voice

You won’t ever see Walmart say:

Walmart has low prices

Instead they’ll say:

Walmart keeps prices low

See the difference?  In the first example, they are telling customers what they have. In the second, they are telling customers what they are doing. Walmart is active, not passive.

Good messaging always uses active language: Eat Fresh. Just Do It. Think Different. They call you to action. They use active voice.

  Unknown.jpegHow did Trump do?

Make America Great Again.

Drain the swamp.

Lock her up.

Build the wall.

They’re all active. They’re energetic. They call voters to action. They actively declare what Trump is going to do.

Grade: A+

Unknown-1.jpegHow did Hillary do?

Better Together.

It doesn’t inspire me to act. It doesn’t say what the campaign will accomplish. Hell, there isn’t even a verb. It’s beyond passive.

Grade: F

Unknown-2.jpegHow did Warren do?

I’d say she was hit or miss. She had messages like “Persist” and “Dream Big. Fight Hard.” That’s active.

But she had some duds like “Big Structural Change”, which again, doesn’t even have a verb.

Grade: B-

Messaging Lesson #2: Speak to an Unmet Need

What if Nike were to say:

If you want shoes with thick rubber soles, choose Nike

They would go out of business. Why? Because no one is looking at their current shoes and saying, “Boy, do I wish there was a shoe out there with thick rubber soles!” It is not an unmet need.

Instead, Nike knows that everyone wants to be better. Everyone has aspirations to get in better shape. To do a 5K. To join a gym. To win the starting role on the team. So Nike creates messaging that answers that unmet need that is burning in almost everyone.

Just Do It. Choose Nike.

If you want to create a message that people pay attention to, you need a message that speaks to an unmet need.

  Unknown.jpegHow did Trump do?

Trump looked at people, especially in red and purple states, and saw that lots of them felt left behind. They pined for the old America of the 50s. These people felt like the country they loved was slipping away.

And he went to these people with the message:

Make America Great Again.


Grade: A+

Unknown-1.jpegHow did Hillary do?

I voted for her. I campaigned for her. I donated to her campaign.

I genuinely do not know what her message was.

By the end, it had basically devolved into: Trump is awful. And when I cast my vote, I wasn’t voting for Hillary. I was voting against Trump.

Grade: F

Unknown-2.jpegHow did Warren do?

I’m going to focus on just one of her messages:

Big Structural Change

What the hell does that mean? It invokes no emotional response whatsoever. I mean, seriously, how many voters are sitting there thinking, “Boy, you know what I really want? I want big structural change?” None.

Grade: F

Actually…she did have some other messages that were stronger than that — but none of them really hit on a burning unmet need that was going to get voters cheering.

Grade: D

Messaging Lesson #3: Repetition and Consistency

What comes to mind when I say “15%”?

Over 80% of people in the US will answer: GEICO. Why? Because they have pounded that message into us for years. 

15 Minutes Could Save You 15% or more

Relentlessly and consistently. They don’t switch it around with other messages. They don’t say it some of the time. They say it again and again and again and again.

If you’re not sick to death of your messaging, you’re doing it wrong.

  Unknown.jpegHow did Trump do?

Did you ever see that doofus without that stupid red MAGA hat?

Grade: A+

Unknown-1.jpegHow did Hillary do?

Stronger Together? I think it was on some of her signs. I might have had an “I’m with her” magnet. She didn’t really say “Stronger Together” in speeches, I don’t think.

Grade: D

Unknown-2.jpegHow did Warren do?

Big Structural Change.
Dream Big. Fight Hard.
A Woman’s Place is in the White House.
She’s Got a Plan for That

That’s a lot of messages. Too many. I was on her email list. I sometimes noticed that she sometimes used some of these messages.

I also noticed that her emails were too long.

Grade: D

NOW…Imagine if THIS had been Warren’s message.

You all remember the recession of 2008? Well, in 2006 someone predicted it. Me.

And when the recession hit, I led the effort that stopped that recession from becoming a full blown depression.

Well guess what folks? I see all the signs. Another crash is coming any minute. Businesses are going to go bankrupt. People are going to lose their homes and see their 401Ks disappear. And Trump is pulling all the wrong levers. He’s making it worse. He’s heading for the cliff.

So now…before it’s too late…it’s time to…


Scare the hell out of voters that the crash is coming and position herself as the only one who can stop it. That hits on a powerful unmet need, it’s active, and you can pound that message all day no matter what happens.

Coronavirus keeps getting worse and this administration is doing everything wrong. What are we gonna do?


You see Trump got in a Twitter war with Kim Kardashian? Is this what our President should be doing? Is this the picture we want to show to the world? What is it time to do?


It works for global warming, women’s rights, racism…you name it. It paints everything Trump does as madness (which is easy to do) — and it gives voters a clear way to stop it.

Stop the Madness. Choose Warren.

Who knows if that’s right, but it’s way better than what she had. What she had was messaging that didn’t follow the basics — and I think it was part of why she failed.

I will end by saying this: Elizabeth Warren legitimately inspired my son. And she inspired me too. I think she would make a remarkable President, and I was proud to volunteer for her.

I’ll also say…if Biden wants help with his message, I’m available. Because he could absolutely use some help.

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7 thoughts on “Why I Think Warren Failed

  1. I agree you are absolutely right!!
    We need you to reach out to Biden campaign and help them Reclaim America !

    Judy Smith
    Sent from my iPhone

  2. I agree with every word you said. I trying to find a way to describe the sad messages and you did it! Thank you

    Would you Please reach out to Biden campaign and help them Reclaim America !

  3. Mike,great article!! In my opinion, you have all the right concepts as to what “the people” hear. As an added piece of information, in my opinion, the most current problem and democratic dilema is that you now have Obama putting his opinion (the positives) behind Sanders and Biden. Bad Bad move…….Once again segregation will come into the democrats because the population of the undecided wont know which way to support, dems loved Obama , and now he is in pro commercials for both. Trump on the other hand delivers the same message(right or wrong ,,, its clear he wants to keep America pointed towards being Great. Again my opinion, but the dems just Not giving a clear message,,,,, and cant say I’m not pleased with how the Dems are handling things, cuz honestly it makes my choice less vulnerable.

  4. Good analysis. But l think Warren had other problems, as well. The Indian claim was a problem. She was unrealistic in what she wanted. and lacked the means to pay for it. And she had too many “l have a plan for that” when she should have explained, in active voice, what the plan was-she had too much to say. But l love her passion, her concern for the little girls she inspired, and her genuine concern for people. But now we all MUST support Biden, our only chance to dump Trump before we lose our democracy and our ideals.

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