Political campaign buttons

Combining humor and cultural references; now that's an artform.

So, you're looking to create a tagline for your campaign. Well, it's good that you're doing your research, because you can't just throw anything on your promotional materials (like "Are You Thinking What We Are Thinking?" a la the Tories in Britain). No, you should probably put a little thought behind what you want to say.

It's like Dewey Finn in The School of Rock ("I have been touched by your kids… and I'm pretty sure that I've touched them."). Sometimes even when the intention of the message is good, what it's actually communicating to the audience can be entirely different.

So, here are some things to think about as you're crafting and fine-tuning the campaign tagline you're planning on putting on your buttons.

Determine Your Campaign Message

Before you even make a campaign tagline, you should probably take some time to figure out your overarching campaign message. After all, your tagline should be an extension of your message in succinct form.

It's like the introduction to an essay. It should tell you what the paper is about, but it shouldn't really get into the specifics until later. Or so I've heard. Who the heck reads essays?

Figure out and communicate your 'why', not your 'what'. Who cares if you're trying to pass this bill or that law? Think about the purpose for your campaign and why people should care, and in turn convey that (political care; now there's a fun oxymoron).

Determine Your Target Audience

Who are you trying to speak to? What demographic are you trying get votes from? If you don't know your target audience yet, how are you supposed to know how to address them?

It's like that time I was speaking at High School graduation. Instead of addressing the graduates as 'graduates', I ended up calling them 'gargantuanites'. People were pretty confused about that.

In that case, the problem wasn't so much who I was addressing, but it was how I was addressing them. What do you know? I made a solid point after all.

Make It Memorable

Your tagline should be memorable. There are definitely a lot of ways to do this, but it seems to help if you use rhythmic devices and/or rhymes. It helps if you can chant it too.

Yeah, technically you could chant anything, but "I like to eat pickles on a Sunday by the lakeside" is pretty hard to add rhythm to (though it is memorable in other ways). "I played a big gig" has more potential, at least rhythmically speaking.

Word choice matters too. Some words are definitely more memorable than others, so that's another thing to think about.

Make It Relevant

If you've taken some time to think about your campaign message (I know you haven't; who follows step-by-step tips anyway?), then being relevant is just an extension of that.

Language keeps changing. People spoke differently only decades ago. Just read a chapter from Think and Grow Rich and you'll see what I mean. It isn't just the kids with their 'epic' and their 'fail' and their 'sick'. Even conventional language continues to mutate.

Relevancy also has to do with your audience. I think we touched on that too.

Make It Simple

Political babble might be pretty funny at times ("Freedom is the extension of, and the overall claiming of, and today's wonderful example of liberty"), but it's probably not terribly effective as a tagline. I don't know, maybe humor is a useful tool (see subsequent point), but you'd have to use it with some care.

The point is to win voters to your cause, not alienate them. They're not aliens. Why would you want to make them into aliens?

Simple taglines are repeatable and memorable. Don't go overboard with complicated language or obscure references.

Make It Short

Nobody remembers really long slogans unless they're super-catchy and utterly ridiculous. Where possible, it's advisable to keep your taglines short and succinct.

This goes hand-in-hand with simplicity, right? Yeah, it might take more than three or four words to come up with a unique and sensible tagline, but that's not an excuse to write an essay. What you need is a short sentence that sums up your political agenda aims accurately.

Use Humor

Political history is laden with anti-slogans and humor and caricature. Sometimes, humor can be an effective device to get people to lower their defenses and listen to what you have to say.

If, like me, you don't have much of a filter for the things you say, you'll probably have to be a little more careful (maybe have some other, more objective people look over your ideas). My mouth has gotten me in trouble more than a few times.

Use Rhymes

Rhymes are catchy. Slogans are much easier to chant when they rhyme and they have a good rhythm to them. There's a reason why rappers are able to remember their lyrics.

Express Human Values

People are different, and yet they are the same. That sounds about as wise as Patches O'Houlihan from Dodgeball ("If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball"), but it's nevertheless true. People often value the same things: family, friends, freedom, and other F words.

With political campaigns, it's important to appeal to those human values. Understand people's needs, wants and desires, and incorporate those elements into your campaigns.

Have you ever written a tagline for a political campaign before? If so, what did you go with? Let us know in the comments section below so we can laugh at you glean off of your wisdom.

Image: hoodsie