Although the UK general election is still very much in its early stages most would agree that it is very different than anything we have seen before. Two key issues appear to be the lack of differentiation between the parties and the growth of once termed minority parties.
Since President Obama first engaged the American public through an impressive multichannel campaign introducing a disruptive dynamic to the historical political landscape – no longer did the large corporate funding solely dictate the outcome of the presidential election (although this is still largely true even today). As in so many areas the UK was quick to follow with all the main political parties and key politicians by establishing a social presence – this at times has proved to be significantly challenging and at times has not helped with communications or clarity of message – I guess more channels does not always mean better outcomes.
The present UK main parties have witnessed an erosion of their traditional power base with less people voting along social demographic lines – so what’s going on? Perhaps marketing strategy has something to offer our struggling politicians.
If we think about our political party’s as brands we can apply some basic principals. First is differentiation: clearly the main political party’s have moved to the so called “centre ground” whilst this has proved in the past to be an election winner it also makes differentiation between the parties extremely difficult with often only technical differences on policies existing between the different groups. This has also allowed new entrants (with more radical agendas) to differentiate themselves more easily within the minds of the electorate. This last point has a double whammy as not only does it allow minority parties to stand out but it also erodes some of the traditional base of the bigger parties.
The second is credibility – as the parties have become less distinctive they have become less confident about success (as seen with the coalition) main political parties are now faced with the prospect of negotiations with another party in order to form a Government, this raises doubt in the mind of the electorate as its not only the party of choice they need to consider but also who are they likely to form an alliance with – as a business we would think very carefully before going to market with a third party provider unless they were distinctive, credible and possessed capabilities and skills we did not have!
Thirdly is authenticity, are these credible? All the political parties have suffered from various scandals that have dented public perception, this has had not only a reputational effect but also an impact on authenticity – can they be believed to deliver – would you buy something from an online provider if you had doubts it would be delivered? Like business the electorate needs some kind of contract, something they can have confidence in, some kind of guarantee!
The fourth issue is meaningful engagement; considering the aforementioned points perhaps it’s not surprising that politicians struggle to develop meaningful engagement. In order to do this you need to have a clear message, be distinctive and communicate in a way and at a time that is convenient and acceptable to the target audience and measure success.
We could go on but the point is the slightly non-event of the current election campaign requires a brand refresh and a capable marketing strategy to deliver distinctive success!
For more information please contact Dr. Ivan Yardley TD, DMS, MCGI, MBA, MA, PhD