President Donald Trump rode to success with a campaign slogan that appealed to our reptilian instincts, according to marketing experts, just as President Barack Obama’s “hope” campaign did. Debates will show us whether the current crop of candidates have realized the importance of these key words. How does this apply to your marketing? Find out here.

With more than 1,000 Inman posts, Bernice Ross is a long-time contributor whose weekly column on real estate trends, luxury, marketing and other best practices publishes every Monday.

With last week’s kickoff rally for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and two nights of televised Democratic debates this week, the 2020 Presidential campaign has shifted into high gear.

What if you could predict the outcome of the 2020 election today using a simple model that has worked in the three presidential campaigns? More importantly, what implications does that model have for your real estate business?

When the Democratic presidential contenders take the stage this week, much will be made of how they came across on the debate stage, their positions on various issues and how successful they were in attacking President Donald Trump.

Moreover, early polling numbers are showing Trump is behind in key states to many of the Democratic front-runners.

But what if none of these things actually has any bearing on the outcome of the election?

The American culture code for buying: Hope, dream, and fix It

Clotaire Rapaille is the marketing genius behind some of the most successful ad campaigns in history. He is known for advising politicians and advertisers on how to influence people’s unconscious decision-making.

Fifty of the Fortune 100 companies are his clients, and they’re willing to shell out top dollar to uncover what motivates their clients to buy their products, or what motivates people to vote for a specific candidate in an election.

Two of his books Secrets of Marketing in a Multi-Cultural World and The Culture Code, outline what really motivates Americans (and people from other cultures) to buy specific products and services.

The three primary culture codes that cause Americans to like or purchase a product are “hope,” “dream” and “fix it,” according to Rapaille.

What’s fascinating is that several successful presidential candidates have picked up on the importance of this code. President Bill Clinton was the “Man from Hope.”

President Barack Obama authored a book called Dreams of My Father and his campaign slogan was “Hope and Change.” Both were completely “on code” for persuading American voters to vote for them.

As I looked at the 17 Republican contenders for 2016, the only candidate who was on code was Trump. Unlike Hillary Clinton, who used “Stronger Together,” “I’m With Her,” and “Fighting For Us,” Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan was on code for “fix it.”

Based on this one fact alone, in September 2015, I made the following prediction that I never thought would happen:

Trump is playing the fix-it card with relish and could very well ride “fix it” all the way to the White House.

One thing that is for certain is that Trump is deeply entrenched in sticking with the “fix it” code for 2020: Immigration needs to be fixed, infrastructure needs to be fixed, the opioid crisis needs to be fixed, as do the cost of prescription drugs.

At his rally Orlando rally last Tuesday, he asked his supporters if his slogan for 2020 should continue to be, “Make America Great Again” or “Keep America Great.” The crowd chose “Keep America Great.”

At first, I thought that Trump had wandered off code. However, Rapaille’s research shows that Americans rate companies that have problems and fix them higher than companies who get it right the first time.

Part of the appeal of Amazon, Costco and Nordstrom is that when something isn’t right, they’ll “fix it” by letting you return it and/or refunding your money.

Handicapping the 2020 Democratic presidential race

Assuming Rapaille is indeed right and Americans will decide 2020 based upon who is “on code,” the candidates who will gain the most traction will be those who use “hope,” “dream” and/or “fix it.” The winner will be the one who best articulates one or more of these codes.

So far, the only leading Democratic presidential contender who even comes close to this idea in terms of a campaign slogan and messaging is Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachussetts, whose slogan is: “We Will Rebuild The Middle Class.”

That message was part of her launch video and is part of her campaign rallies. The New York Times Magazine ran a cover profile of her just this past weekend with the headline: “Elizabeth Warren has an answer for everything.”

The messaging is so consistent, and the plans are so wide-ranging that it all caused the comedian Ashley Nicole Black to joke on Twitter: “Do you think Elizabeth Warren has a plan to fix my love life?”

Warren has laid out her own plans to help Americans with their student loan debt, with their housing costs, to cope with the opioid crisis and to address the cost of prescription drugs — unlike many of the other Democratic candidates.

The important thing to note is that while she’s talking a lot about fixing things, her message isn’t quite on code. “Rebuilding the middle class” implies it needs improvement, but it doesn’t quite imply that it was broken and needs to be “fixed,” a subtle but important difference. As we’ve seen in the past, unless the message is exactly on code, it likely won’t work.

If Warren does indeed “get on code,” an even more interesting question is what happens if two or more candidates use different codes to compete against each other? Will they be the final front-runners going into the Democratic convention? Will their “codes” outweigh Trump’s use of “fix it?”

Takeaways for your real estate business

While all of this is interesting, how does it translate into your real estate business? Here are several examples of how to integrate these codes in your own communications and marketing campaigns.

1. You’re not selling real estate — you’re selling the “dream” of homeownership.

Here are three examples:

When you use the word “dream,” you’re creating a “brightness of the future” scenario. According to Rapaille, as compared to Europe, the U.S. is a young, optimistic, forward-looking country. When you work with most buyers, they’re excited about buying that next home and dreaming of what their life will be like when they finally own it.

2. When things go wrong, use ‘fix it’

Long before I ever heard of Clotaire Rapaille, I discovered that if I was dealing with an angry client or there was a problem in one of my transactions, one of the best approaches was to do the following:

  • First, never say, “I’m sorry.” When most people apologize, they try to explain away what they did or justify why their position is right. Either way, you only make the other person angrier.
  • Instead of apologizing or explaining, ask, “What can I do to fix this?” The benefit of using this approach is that it shifts the other person’s focus from what is making them angry to helping you look for solutions to their issue.

Keep in mind, according to Rapaille’s research, Americans rate companies that fix their problems more highly than those whose products don’t have any problems.

I’m curious to see who among the Democratic contenders will be on code.

Remember, that ultimately what your clients will remember is what you do, how you connect with their hopes and dreams, and what you do to fix it when there is a problem.

How do you stay ahead in a changing market? Inman Connect Las Vegas — Featuring 250+ experts from across the industry sharing insight and tactics to navigate threat and seize opportunity in tomorrow’s real estate. Join over 4,000 top producers, brokers and industry leaders to network and discover what’s next, July 23-26 at the Aria Resort. Hurry! Tickets are going fast, register today!

Thinking of bringing your team? There are special onsite perks and discounts when you buy tickets together. Contact us to find out more.


Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at and her new agent sales training at

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