A Bustling Microcosm of Hurtling Heartache

It’s that sweet time of the year that we all look forward to… no, not the wave of over-the-top, contrived reality TV shows that have returned for the umpteenth season – I’m talking about the U.S. State of the Union Address, which we’ve been hotly anticipating.

For those unfamiliar, the State of the Union Address is an annual message delivered by the current U.S. president. The address is usually one that summarises the year that was economically and financially, and ideally fills the U.S. public with optimism and political confidence leading into the year ahead. However, with Donald Trump at the helm, it would be fair to say that public interest in the address has shifted in recent years from those with political curiosity to those seeking satirical ammunition.

And so, media outlet upon media outlet has been busy churning out article upon article to publish their take on the words of Donald Trump. But one article, by the Washington Post, in particular caught my eye with a particularly interesting analysis of Trump’s words, which was just that – a breakdown of the individual words used in his speech.

The article, titled No Other President Has Used These Words in an Address Until Now, literally takes every word spoken (read: over-enunciated) by Trump during his address and compares them against every other word mentioned in every other president’s State of the Union Address. Doing so reveals a little bit about the tone and language not only of the speaker but of the pollical zeitgeist that they influence. Have a look at an example below comparing the ‘new’ words that 2015 Obama and 2019 Trump brought to the address.

Obama 2015 Trump 2019
Bounce Bloodthirsty
Bustling Chilling
Checklist Freeloading
Churning Heartache
Curve Hurtling
Hype Kissing
Microcosm Outspend
Overjoyed Rekindle
Re-energized Sadistic
Transgender Screeched
Unstoppable Venomous

Not only is this interesting from a political point of view but is also from a research perspective, as it sheds light on how text can be used as a powerful analytical tool, as well as just how unique individual words or phrases can provide insight into consumers lives.

In research, text analysis can come for various datasets – social media posts and comments, forums and blogs, transcripts or surveys – and can allow for a range of analytical interpretation. Sentiment analysis can help us understand the emotional connection people have towards certain brands, and the depth of how positive or negative those emotions are. Quantifying the number of mentions of a topic or brand name can be a key measure of popularity, recognition or preference. Furthermore, knowing frequent keywords about a certain topic is a strong informer of SEO and SEM.

Brands have a lot to say as well and are also responsible for cultivating unique or new words into the public vernacular. To start, we’ve got the obvious examples of a brand names being ‘genericised’ to replace nouns; so we now Uber from one meeting to another, and we have tech brands to thank for being able to Google something, send a tweet or Shazam a song. But also think about how standard words have been given new meanings because of brand intervention; Mastercard and Visa gave a new context to how shoppers swipe, and a click or tap are simply no longer just sounds but how we navigate our computers and smartphones. Similarly, Facebook has provided a completely new meaning – and currency – to liking something.

Coming back to the U.S. State of the Union, this is obviously a unique event that occurs much less frequently than the opportunity that brands get to interact with consumers. However, the two communications aren’t that dissimilar from one another. Trump (and his team of writers) have put a lot of consideration into his message to U.S. citizens – brands do the same when advertising to or communicating with their audience. What is interesting though is how the Trump brand can be defined by the unique words he mentions that haven’t been used to characterise a president before.

So, here’s a question to the marketers reading who are responsible for their brand’s messaging: What are the new or unique words that you want your brand to say that will set it apart from others?

By James Shelley

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