MARKETING AND SALES STRATEGIES

Inclusive Language Ratio comparing first Obama presidential address with last from Bush

Posted by David Meerman Scott 10:21 AM on January 20, 2009

UPDATE January 20, 2009 at 7:30 pm

Thanks to several people who commented on this post and pointed out that my original analysis was not a fair comparison. "Comparing apples and oranges," Matthew said.

Therefore, I have analyzed George W. Bush's first inauguration address from 2001 and counted the following:
Internal language 11 (me 0, I 8, and my 3)
Inclusive language 100 (our 49, we 41, us 10)

President Bush First Inaugural Inclusive Language Ratio = 9.1
President Obama First Inaugural Inclusive Language Ratio = 47

Yes, the results are different. Thank you for suggesting the modification. However, this analysis still shows President Obama using dramatically more inclusive language than President Bush.

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ORIGINAL POST

I find presidential politics a fascinating area to study from the marketing and communications perspective. This post provides a detailed analysis of the language chosen by President Bush for his farewell address to the nation and the language chosen by President Obama for his inauguration address.

The most amazing contrast for me was the use of internal language by President Bush, who referred to "me," "I," and "my" a total of 44 times compared to President Obama's use of internal language only 3 times.

In contrast, President Obama used inclusive language such as "our," "we," and "us" a total of 142 times compared to President Bush who used inclusive language 64 times.

Let's call this the Inclusive Language Ratio which I'll say is inclusive language used in a speech divided by internal language.
President Bush Inclusive Language Ratio = 1.45
President Obama Inclusive Language Ratio = 47

As a marketer, I find this huge difference very telling. People want to hear about what's in it for them, and they are looking for answers to problems. Great marketing is created for buyers.

Bush final speech
On Thursday evening, January 15, 2009, President George W. Bush's delivered his farewell address to the nation. The text, as transcribed by the White House, was made available by the Associated Press.

Obama inauguration
On Tuesday afternoon, January 20, 2009, President Barack Obama delivered his inaugural address to the nation. The text was made available by the Associated Press (which I found via the Miami Herald).

Granted, the purposes of these two speeches were different. However, coming so close to one another, I do think that it is a fair comparison.

Important note: Readers of this blog know that I do not write about politics and that is not my intention here. I am a marketer and write about marketing and communications. This is not a political analysis, but a marketing one.

I found several other comparisons interesting. President Bush used language referring to threats 18 times while President Obama did 6 times. President Bush used the words "freedom" or "liberty" a total of 9 times while President Obama did twice.

Some details:

President Bush's speech

1860 words and he spoke for approximately 15 minutes.

Internal language 44 uses (Me 4, I 31, my 9)

Inclusive language 64 uses (Our 37, we 23, us 4)

Threat language 18 uses (Attack 3, terror/terrorist 7, enemy 1, threat 3, battle 1, safe / safety 3)

Freedom and liberty – 9 uses (Freedom 5, liberty 4)

President Obama's speech

2403 words and he spoke for a little over 20 minutes.

Internal language 3 uses (Me 0, I 2, my 1)

Inclusive language 143 uses (our 67, we 60, us 15)

Threat language 6 uses (attack 0, terror/terrorist 1, enemy 1, threat 3, safe / safety 1)

Freedom and liberty 2 uses (freedom 0, liberty 2)

David Meerman Scott

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