Earlier today the BBC Daily Politics kindly invited me on to their show to discuss election-themed products and promotions.
You can watch here from 55.41, but the gist of what I said is as follows:
There’s 2 reasons why brands use election gimmicks.
The first is a tactic called Newsjacking and the second is a strategy around increasing relevance.
‘Newsjacking’ is about anticipating stories that journalists will already by writing and creating great content for them to use.
The Daily Politics programme I was on was a classic example.
The marketing departments and PR agencies of these companies knew media outlets would be running stories on the mad things brands are doing around election time and decided to try and earn their brand or product some coverage.
We were newsjacked.
The second reason brands do it is because there’s lots of research to suggest that ‘relevance’ is an important driver in people’s decision making.
It’s a slightly intangible thing and people don’t agree as to how it works exactly, but almost everyone agrees that it does work.
If your brand or product can seem ‘relevant’ to whatever else is going on in the consumer’s life, people seem to attach more value to you.
This is the reason why brands gather around big marquee moments in the year. Whether it’s the World Cup, going Back to School, Christmas or Valentine’s Day. The more relevant your brand can seem to an occasion the more likely it is people are going to choose you over the competition.
It gets consumers thinking “this product is for people like me”.
We see this a lot in politics. A key driver in how people vote is how ‘relevant’ they think the party or candidate is to them. It’s the reason why politicians put aside their expensive suits when they’re knocking on doors in their constituencies and instead don some dodgy chinos and Next Directory sweater.
When I spoke to Robert I gave him my point of view that the scale of the paid-for digital campaigns in this election is unprecedented in the UK and that political parties – particularly the Conservatives – are getting around the ban on TV advertising by using YouTube and Facebook videos.
However, pre-roll isn’t in this instance the poor relation of TV. Indeed, using paid-for online video is in many ways much better than TV as you can target internet users who display certain online behaviours or fit certain demographics. This allows parties to focus resources on the audiences and locations that are most likely to deliver them important votes.
As this is a political communication innovation I suspect there will be a gut instinct amongst some to try and contain or ban it.
This would be a mistake.
Advertising is an important way for political parties to communicate with voters. Currently political parties have to overly rely on mass media outlets in order to disseminate their campaign messages which inevitably leads to distortion; the emergence of digital media has been an important shift in enabling politicians to communicate directly with the electorate and we should avoid any moves to curtail it.
However, as a quid pro quo, the political parties should agree to a new regulatory framework around all advertising in order to prevent the broadcasting of misleading or offensive information. More detail on this can be found here.
There is lots of evidence to suggest that celebrities’ endorsements of brands are only successful when there is an overlap of their brand values and it is communicated using an idea.
A good example of a successful celebrity and brand partnership was when Sainsbury’s worked with Jamie Oliver. Sainsbury’s brand values were about encouraging people to be more adventurous with their cooking and Jamie Oliver was a chef who built his brand on innovative recipes – a perfect overlap. The idea used to communicate their partnership was called ‘Try something new today’.
An example of where it’s gone well in politics was Jo Brand’s recent party election broadcast for the Labour Party which was on the topic of the NHS; she’s well known as being left-leaning and was a former nurse, so it made sense for people.
When there is no synergy between the brand and the celebrity the communication falls very flat and can even annoy people.
An example of this was the furore created when, as an April Fool, The Guardian announced that Chris Martin from Coldplay was going to support David Cameron by releasing a new version of hit song Talk, called Talk to David. Those unaware that it was a joke were outraged as they couldn’t understand what the two had in common. People who were fans of Coldplay but didn’t like Cameron, felt like they were being hypercritical in a way.
In psychological terms this is known as cognitive dissonance; this phrase refers to the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs.
So, if you respect and secretly aspire to be like Celebrity A but they have endorsed Political Party B – which you despise – you are likely to feel unsettled and upset about the collaboration.
Another example of this celebrity endorsement going badly was when Eddie Izzard kept popping up for various causes including Gordon Brown in 2010, the Alternative Vote referendum in 2011, Ken Livingston’s Mayoral campaign in 2012 and the Scottish Referendum in 2014; people wondered what this comedian has got to do with all these issues. And it didn’t help that until the Scottish Referendum, Izzard had been on the losing side of every contest sparking the amusing internet meme “The Curse of Eddie Izzard”.
The Conservative Party have released a new poster that is plastered across marginal constituencies. It features Alex Salmond, former leader of the the SNP, pinching some cash from the back pocket of an unsuspecting man.
The poster substantiates the headline claim and image by implying that the SNP would want more borrowing, higher taxes and increased welfare handouts in order to join a coalition government with Labour.
What is slightly strange about this poster launch is that the Conservative Party haven’t mentioned it once on their Twitter feed or Facebook Page. Usually the Conservatives heavily promote their new posters on their social channels, so there is obviously some reason why this poster is being hushed up (despite the fact that I’ve driven by 3 sites carrying the poster in the 3 days since it launched…).
The only version of it I could find online were photos people had taken and posted on social media.
It’s certainly not one of the Conservative’s better posters. The line of attack just doesn’t seem tenable. Crucial to the success of an attack ad is believability; if the viewer hasn’t already had a nagging suspicion about the topic it will likely fall flat.
The ‘Miliband in Salmond’s pocket’ execution was so powerful because it was primarily about leadership. It was an attack on the ability of Miliband to take control of a government – an idea that almost everyone would have played with in their mind at some point.
This execution, with its focus on the details of a fictional coalition deal, is wide of the mark.
It also seems like the public are beginning to tire of the SNP / Labour line of Tory attack. The graph below from YouGov should give the Conservatives the nudge they need to return to their original strategy of focusing on the economy and leadership.
The Labour Party have released a new poster which promotes their policy to recruit 20,000 more nurses.
It features an image of thousands of nurse-style fob watches and a sub header announcing that applications for these new jobs will open the day after polling day, May 8th.
It also carries a new campaign strap line: “It’s time to care. It’s time for a Labour government”.
This is the first really strong poster from Labour of the 2015 general election. And it’s a positive one!
The message is clear, with an appropriate and original visual. And there’s a bit of levity in there with the suggestion around the application date.
The policy is a salient one with the public; it’s also right in Labour’s comfort zone as well as being an area where the Conservatives lack credibility.
And the strap line is brilliant. It’s a twist on the classic challenger ‘time for a change’ slogan. It neatly encapsulates everything that Miliband and Labour are standing for.
The interesting thing about this poster is that if it had been released earlier in the campaign there’s a chance the Conservatives would have attacked it for being an example of Labour’s profligate spending plans. However, as the Tories have made plenty of spending commitments throughout the short campaign, the accusation won’t hold water.
The Labour campaign is really picking up steam heading into the final couple of weeks of the contest.