Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Have a very Partisan Xmas

The Conservative and Labour Party are giving us a treat for Xmas, both a little bit of fun but conveying a strong party message. For a whole £5 you can buy the Conservative supporter in your life Ed Miliband's Policies for Britain, a 204 page notepad. Yes folks its blank, but its a fun notepad.
Less costly, but allowing fun everyday between Dec 1st and Xmas is the Coalition Advent Calender, behind each is a broken promise to remind you why Labour argue you should not trust the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats.
All good clean fun, and all very festive, but as both can be shared an opportunity to get a message relayed across social networking sites.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Vodaphone's failed viral campaign #mademesmile

Its a great idea, you want to get a bit of positive word of mouth. You start an online campaign and so do a bit of crowdsourcing. You find an appropriate hashtag (the symbol which placed before a term allows searching and grouping of tweets) and invite Twitter users to say what 'makes them smile'. In theory it creates a buzz about the brand and gets coverage online and offline. More importantly, in theory, it associates the brand with the making people smile. Well this was what could have happened for Vodaphone in a parallel universe when they offered free phones to those who told the world what made them smile.
The major mistake was to not take into account the environment for the brand. If you are a brand ticking along just searching for a bit of positive coverage it can work fine. Tetley, the tea company, invite users to send in pictures of their mugs to 'The Gaffer' at @tetley_teafolk; it seems to be going ok but Tetley don't have enemies. Vodaphone face significant criticism for not paying taxes in the UK. UK Uncut, campaigning against cuts and tax dodging, invited their followers to hijack #makemesmile. Very soon it became a trending topic, the content said it all. See this article for examples.
Just like Labour's #changewesee, Vodaphone managed to attract opponents which shaped the messages at key times. Conservative/LibDem supporters placed a lot of observations of negative changes they saw on Labour's site. The lesson is that letting the online crowd have control over your message is a dangerous one, but the outcomes can be predictable. Basically if your brand is in trouble, possibly avoid giving your critics a space on your own website to say what they think. It can end up with your opponents getting the positive coverage and not you!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Election 2010: party expenditure accounts released

The Electoral Commission has released full details of the party and candidate expenditure from the 2010 UK General Election. There is a lot of detail but there are two key headlines. Firstly is the overall party expenditure compared to one another. As the first graph shows, the Conservative party spent twice the amount as Labour, £16 to £8 million, the Liberal Democrats spend was just over £4 million. When one considers the outcome, it seems Labour got a better bang for bucks; or of course the actual spend has no impact in terms of votes. The disparity between spend and outcome though is quite stark. Of course the Ashcroft funded target seat campaign may explain this, that the money was channeled into specific areas as opposed to a largely national spend but one must wonder about return on investment.
In terms of wise spending, the Conservatives spent an inordinate amount on advertising while Labour focused on direct mail (unsolicited material to electors). That is the one clear difference in terms of communication strategy.
Looking at the overall figures for how spend was used (above graph) we get a degree of an idea of how parties campaign. Spend on direct mail is virtually equal across the major parties suggesting this is the key route used to reach voters. How effective this is is questionable, much direct mail goes straight into the bin, but with targeting and personalisation there is now a finely-honed direct mail strategy. Advertising is high spend and the Conservatives clearly led, with hoardings most heavily used and often carrying negative messages. Interestingly market research is central to each party's campaign, so informing the direct mail strategy, you can even see a bit of green showing the Green Party were equally serious about targeting. What does it all say about the professionalised, or strategy led, election. Awareness using advertising aside, it seems it is the direct route with communication targeted as well as possible that is the prefered mode of communication. Directly to voters, using a range of persuasion tools, yet under the media radar. The online media could be a supplementary means for delivering such messages, especially email, but they lacked the databases, one wonders if this will remain a a feature for the next contest?
Graphs taken from EC website

Friday, December 03, 2010

Will bare breasts deter Muslim Fundamentalists?

That is from entering a country, not if they are in the course of a terrorist act that if all the women stand up and rip off their tops will they suddenly stop what they are doing and run away. But the idea is serious, the Dansk Folkspartie (Danish Peoples' Party) believe that if they include candid shots of topless women on Danish beaches will will deter fundamentalist Muslims from choosing to settle in Denmark. Writing in the Telegraph, Praveen Swami quotes their foreign policy spokesman Peter Skaarup arguing: "I honestly believe by including a couple of bare breasts in the movie, extremists may think twice before coming to Denmark". Swami argues this is flawed as many young Muslims are obsessed with sex, his article has also lots more analysis and is well worth a read. The flaws are obvious but wonder if in branding a nation using certain images they can attract or deter people choosing to migrate to and settle their - an interesting poser for nation branding!