Elections are about taking sides 

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, today unveiled a poster in advance of local and regional elections that are taking place across the UK on Thursday 5th May 2016.

The difficulty with developing a single poster for a set of elections which include the Welsh Assembly, Northern Irish Assembly, Scottish Parliament, London Assembly, English local councils and Police and Crime Commisioners is that the issues at stake differ wildly in each contest. 

However, there is one point of probable consistency: turnout will likely be very low.

Scottish Parliamentary elections tend to see turnout of around 50%. As this year’s election seems like a one-sided contest it could well be lower; it wouldn’t be surprising if voters stay at home because they assume the SNP will win regardless of their ballot.

In the London Assembly election in 2012 just under 41% voted.  The Welsh Assembly has never seen more than 50% turnout.

Low turnout tends to impact Labour more unfavourably than other parties.

My guess is that the Labour Party reckon their best chance of a decent showing is to convince their hardcore supporters to get out and vote.

This poster speaks to the tribally loyal.  It tacitly reminds supporters that, for all the recent internal turmoil, the real enemy isn’t within.

The assumption that ‘the many’ will intrinsically understand that Labour is on their side, the lack of a sensical rationale and the dryness of the execution won’t bother the hardcore supporters.

To quote a tweet by Rafael Behr of The Guardian, the poster basically just says “Vote Labour because LABOUR!” 

That won’t do anything for a floating voter, but it will be enough to do the job it’s intended to do.

Labour poster: Osborne rides dodgems at the unfair funfair 

Labour have attacked the Chancellor George Osborne (and Google) in their first piece of national advertising since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader.

The poster-style executions carry the party’s newly unveiled election slogan “standing up, not standing by”.

I’m not sure which is a worse decision:

a) using a funfair as a creative vehicle because it rhymes with “unfair” 

b) choosing Google’s tax contributions as a line of attack 

The two most important things to achieve when creating a piece of political advertising are intellectual clarity and an impactful visual.

These posters achieve neither. 

Whilst Google’s tax affairs might be something that gets the hard left hot under the collar it’s not something that voters will see as an issue that is particularly relevant to their everyday lives. And even if it was, nothing is offered as to what Labour could / would do about it if in government.

And the executions – both copy and art direction – are clumsy and uninspiring.

The use of “google it” as a piece of wordplay reads like a slightly desperate dad joke.  

And why is Osborne in a dodgem car?  What relevance does a funfair have to Google? The visuals don’t  relate at all to the issue at hand. Aside from the fact that “unfair” rhymes with “funfair” – which is so tenuous that it makes the ad quite confusing.

Viewers will assume there’s some deeper meaning which they don’t understand.

Finally, the language – “Don’t seem to understand” / “Perhaps they should” – is just so pathetically  weak. It’s almost apologetic in tone.

It doesn’t get much worse than this I’m afraid.

Sadiq Khan: political branding

Sadiq Khan, the Labour Party’s candidate in the London Mayoral elections taking place in May this year, has developed a brilliant logo for his candidacy.

The multi-coloured graphical depiction of the river Thames is a clever shorthand for Khan for a few reasons:

1. It’s instantly recognisable as a London landmark so links the candidate with the office he’s running for.

2. It’s a river. Rivers have very few negative cognitive associations.

3. The multi-coloured nature of it subtly implies that whilst he’s standing as a Labour candidate he hopes to have broad appeal.

4. The graphical and colourful style is reminiscent of the London 2012 Olypmic logo. Quietly aligning Khan’s brand with that event is smart.

5. It’s so nicely designed and such a symbol of Londoners’ identity that supporters will be happy to wear t-shirts and wave placards which have the logo emblazoned on it.

To whoever designed it and to whoever bought it – well played.

Political branding: the Labour Party leadership logos 2015

Liz Kendall logo

Andy Burnham logo v1
Andy Burnham v1
Andy Burnham logo
Andy Burnham v2

Yvette Cooper logo

Jeremy Corbyn logo

The candidates for the Labour Party leadership campaign are now locked down and final.

As ever, I’m interested in the most seemingly trivial part of the battle: what their logos look like.

Getting your logo right isn’t going to win you the election, but it’s a useful thing to get right.  It’s a consciously developed identity that will exist across all the materials that are being designed to help your candidate win office.  It’s a useful visual short cut for the values and persona of the candidate that is comprised of colours, strap lines and design features.

When well-designed and implemented they create a consistent identity that helps build familiarity with an electorate which facilitates feelings of trust and loyalty.

A good logo is concise, differentiating from the competition and authentic to the candidate.

The first question that all the campaigns would have asked themselves is ‘what colours should we use in our logo?’  Or, more precisely, ‘which shade of red best encapsulates our candidate?’.  It may sound banal, but there’s a huge range of reds one can choose from and it’s very well accepted that peoples emotional responses to different colours varies hugely.

If your red is too bold it might seem aggressive; too light and it could feel weak; too dark and it could be perceived to be old-fashioned.  Jeremy Corbyn’s choice of a relatively gloomy red isn’t a good one.  His campaign’s main concern should be about being positioned as yesterday’s man: a stern left-wing candidate from a previous era.  His choice of red does nothing to prevent having such values ascribed to him.

The second question that the campaigns would have asked themselves is ‘do we want a strap-line with our logo?’.  A strap-line should summarise the candidate’s positioning in a few words.  Conveying that your candidate is ‘the outsider’, ‘the self-made man / woman’ or ‘the unifying choice’ in a concise phrase which doesn’t sound trite is very tricky.

A good way to start is to write a series of “why people should vote for me” statements, then delete any that other candidates could legitimately claim.  From there you will likely have a fairly short list which you can begin to craft into a few choice, motivating words.

I would say Yvette Cooper has slightly failed in this regard: which candidate wouldn’t sign up to “proud of our values, the strength to win”.

The third question that campaigns would have asked themselves is ‘do we want to try and fit an idea in the logo’?  When I say ‘idea in a logo’ I mean things like the ‘A to Z’ in the Amazon logo or the arrow formed in the negative space between the ‘E’ and the ‘x’ in the FedEx logo.  A piece of art direction that’s built into the logo which conveys something about the brand.  When done well, these logos are brilliant.  When done badly they are naff, vulgar and ridiculous.

Andy Burnham’s campaign’s first effort is an example of a logo which includes an idea.  Noting that the word ‘Labour’ has the letters ‘ab’ in the centre, the campaign tried to contrive a whole brand positioning around Andy being the ‘heart of Labour’.  Strategically, positioning Andy as the heart of Labour – when he’s faced accusations of being a bit of a ball of emotion on the NHS – didn’t seem like the smartest idea.  And on top that, the logo was a design disaster.  On the day of its launch the logo was lampooned on Twitter with many saying it looked like it was done on early version of MS paint.

To the campaign’s credit, they have quietly decommissioned the travesty of a logo and replaced it with one that’s almost identical to Liz Kendall’s.


Corbyn amended his logo a few weeks into the campaign:


Labour: nurse applications open May 8th


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.


Jo Brand stars in new Labour Party Election Broadcast

Comedian Jo Brand stars in the Labour Party’s latest election broadcast which puts the spotlight on the Conservative Party’s record on the NHS.

This is exactly what a party election broadcast should be.

1. It’s single-minded.

2. The language used by the talent feels vaguely authentic.

3. The delivery isn’t forced.

By keeping the production within the confines of a studio they’ve been able to invest the production money available into cameras and lighting, which means it has a high quality look and feel.

And in order to prevent the viewer getting bored of just seeing someone talking at them down the barrel, there’s a sort of ‘behind-the-scenes’ style which gives an excuse to cut away from the talent from time to time.

Very good.

Labour’s campaign seems to be picking up speed and confidence in the final straight.