Back to Basics

With the current state of the nation I feel it would be remiss not to blog about the recent General Election here in the UK. However, with the 1000s of column inches both online and offline given to the discussions and debates about the who, why and what, another pundit throwing their two penneth worth of political opinion is probably of no value.

As one of those casting my vote last week, and someone who has worked in the world of marketing for the last 25 years, what I found even more interesting than who gained what constituency was how the two parties planned their campaigns, and how the Tories fundamentally got the essentials of communication so wrong while Labour worked it to their advantage.

Even those starting out in their marcoms career know the 3 step plan:

1.     Know your audience, and don’t underestimate them

2.     Raise your profile

3.     Define and refine your messaging.

Know your Audience and Don’t Underestimate them

Understanding your audience and the customer journey that they will go on from Awareness, through Consideration to Customer and then Advocate is one of the first steps of generating customers and building a brand.

YouGov’s survey (below) post the Election is no shocker to anyone as it shows how the youth came out and voted for Labour and it only swung in favour of the blues at 50 years+.  What is the shocker is how the Tories underestimated the youth's vote and when in the 11th hour realised that they needed to engage them, then alienated their core audience with their 'dementia tax' policy. Whereas Labour set out its stall in talking to those who felt they hadn't been heard in the Brexit debate.












Raise your Profile

If Trump was the first President to really exploit his social media platform as propaganda for his thoughts and opinions and to spread his word globally, then this might have been the first General Election to have used the power of the personality, or lack of it, to win votes.  For many this was a vote for or against May or Corbyn. How many voters could recall the Shadow Chancellor?  Although there is no doubt that May had good awareness, and definitely faired well with her core audience in terms of credibility, in my opinion one of her biggest mistakes was to substitute herself with Amber Rudd in the crucial live debate.  Given the best chance to regain her popularity with her core audience, she opted out.  Interesting how those with the profile - Boris, Gove and all – have reclaimed their seats around the table and those whose opinions are not so loud do not seem to have held onto their hats for as long.

Define and Refine Your Messaging

If you understand who you are talking to and have the profile and the platform to speak to them, it is about what you say. You would think this is the easy bit. Finding who might buy into your brand, or vote for you, and finding where they hang out, or what social media they use, papers they read, influencers they listen to, to help build your profile, is the hard part right?  Knowing what you believe in and selling them your brand promise, or in Election terms, why they should vote for you, should be the part you have rehearsed and are pitch perfect in.

However, this is where it all seemed to go wrong for Theresa May, as it does often for brands in their communications strategy.  Let’s look at the Conservative's campaign.  There is no doubt that Theresa May led her campaign on a negative messaging. One of the letters post Election in the Telegraph, whose readers are traditionally seen as more right wing, was headlined “Theresa May’s negative, uninspiring election campaign repeated the mistakes of Project Fear” while The Independent reported that the Tories “spent more than £ 1m on negative Facebook adverts attacking Jeremy Corbyn.” Instead of talking up their own policies and party’s manifesto, they talked down the opposition. Instead of making the customer feel good about their brand, their strategy was to make the customer feel bad about their competitors. In the other camp, Corbyn’s slogan “For the many, not the few” gave hope to those who felt that they hadn’t been served by the incumbent government, while still remaining true to its values.  The messaging was positive and inclusive, rather than negative and alienating. 

I am no political commentator, and this is not a political blog pro or against any of the parties. However, I do believe that to engage an audience you need to cut through the complex and make your brand, your message and your purpose simple. I think there is a lesson for all of this in this Election and that is to remember however big the campaign and whatever the starting odds are, remember not to forget the fundamentals, and most importantly your customer.