Six marketing lessons from the General Election

The dust has settled on what was a relatively risk averse campaign from the major parties. Here’s what we learned about marketing and communications during the course of the election.

1. Social media can be cruel

Ok, so we knew this already, but Twitter users showed no mercy when Ed Miliband was given a mauling for erecting what became known as #EdStone. This wouldn’t be particularly surprising but for the fact Miliband had become something of an unlikely social media hero; the subject of the frankly bizarre online cult “Milifandom”. If you’re in the public eye, you’re never safe on social media. Oh, and if you wanted further evidence (or just a laugh) of social media’s unsparing nature, scroll through the #WhyImVotingUKIP hashtag on Twitter.

EdStoneEd Miliband was widely criticised online for unveiling #EdStone in the garden of 10 Downing Street

2. Pick your battleground strategically

Back to basics, here. UKIP gained a whopping four million – four million – votes across the UK, however they only have one seat to show for it. It’s a similar story for the Green Party; between the two parties they amassed five million votes and secured just two seat. Contrast that with the Conservatives whose vote count increased just 1% from 2010 – but a 1% that was targeted with precision in exactly the right areas. The SNP were similarly shrewd in their execution; 50% of the Scottish votes resulting in a staggering 56 of the 59 available seats. The strategy from both camps was clear and effective: capitalise on the wounded Labour and Liberal Democrats respectively by poaching just enough of their voters. Why – like UKIP and the Greens – put your energy in markets that you can’t win? Prioritise. Focus on the areas where you can win; be prepared to exploit your competitors’ weak links or pay the price.

3. Attention to detail goes a long way

I’ve always been a big believer in the importance of detail; I’ve proof read this blog numerous times, for instance. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Alan Dimmick, though, the UKIP candidate of Frome, Somerset. He went viral when a school teacher took a red pen to this incredibly poor campaign flier. Oh dear.

UKIP's flier attracted some attentionWe can only hope UKIP didn’t pay an agency for this

4. Forecasts will never be accurate enough

What was sold to the public as a the tightest general election in years actually turned out to be a relatively comfortable victory for David Cameron and the Conservatives. Sure, it was no landslide but it wasn’t until the exit polls were revealed when voting closed on Election Day that we had any indication the Conservatives could in fact win an outright majority; a prospect that seemed impossible just moments before. Many commentators questioned the validity of the sources; a situation that marketers and research agencies alike will be perfectly familiar with. You’ll never have enough data to be certain of any forecasts, so only share the data you have real confidence in and be prepared to justify it.

5. Sometimes it pays to get a second opinion

Telegraph Politics (@TelePolitics) got it badly wrong when they posted this tweet. Somehow they thought they were doing women a favour. Really?
What were they thinking?This tweet from The Telegraph’s Politics feed was in poor taste

6. Traditional media still matters

And online hype doesn’t necessarily translate into results. Sorry, Russell.

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