What lessons in leadership, marketing and customer engagement can we learn from the two main parties in this general election?

It has been a giant marketing campaign; miles of billboard adverts, acres of broadcast airtime, celebrity endorsements, sound-bites, slogans, and branded battle buses. I have just looked on-line and the Tories alone have allegedly spent nearly £80m and despite that there has been no change in the polls between the two main parties for months.

Where’s the vision?

There are claims it has been stage managed and bland, with a reluctance by the leaders to meet and talk to ordinary people. The only off-piste moment came from the marketing lady in the BBCQT Leeds audience. Even the combi-slogan, ‘Better Brighter Future Together’ daren’t stray from a small pool of carefully chosen key words – like a sort of political word anagram. There was a lack of vision and values, and media discussions centred on the campaign rather than the content.

We don’t want to mix with common people?

Last Monday David Cameron came to visit Wells and sat on our village green about 400m from my house. I would have enjoyed meeting him but I didn’t know he was here. I asked an activist on Tuesday why they didn’t promote his visit. (Spot the untruths in this response) It was because of ‘security’, it was a private visit, he popped in with his wife Sam. It’s a marginal seat with a 700 vote majority, what a lucky coincidence. I have a sneaking feeling he wanted to avoid the possibility of another (southern) marketing lady asking awkward questions. If politicians don’t want to meet with ordinary voters then they shouldn’t be surprised when voters don’t engage with their messages.

Answer the question stupid

We seem to have accepted that politicians don’t need to answer the question anymore. It used to be that they wiggled and squirmed and vaguely answered but now they answer a different question entirely, they don’t even do us the courtesy of a clever segue to the answer/soundbite they must give.

Be authentic

It’s all about trust and authenticity, and the parties know it. Why else would Labour ‘set in stone’ their promises, or the Tories legislate so that they can’t break their own promises? It’s not unusual to hear the electorate say they sometimes can’t tell the difference between the main parties and I don’t blame them. ‘Politicians look the same, sound the same and behave the same’. In this election campaign, Labour has seemed to nick the Tories clothes of financial probity, sticking to their spending plans and the Tories are going all touchy feely. But people don’t buy it, because it doesn’t have depth or seem credible.

Who are you?

Even politicians are saying they need to be more convincing and trustworthy.

“Politicians should be looking to trade in authenticity, and that means using stories and experiences to convey the message, not parroting slogans. It’s about showing character, imagination and a deeper understanding of people’s lives.”

Approaching campaigning in this way may partly explain why Nicola Sturgeon has gained so much support.

Show don’t tell

Don’t forget the name of your football team and don’t try too hard. In business we need to be truthful, customers will always find you out, and the choice to trust you is only tested when things go wrong. Our business is based on a strong character and vision from a passionate and focused individual – she gets my vote. That’s why bartlett mitchell is even stronger today than it was when it was formed 15 years ago.

The waiting is almost over- we’ll know by Friday … or will we?

I will be getting up early to vote and staying up late for the results, sustaining myself on bananas and jelly babies. Lin Dickens, Marketing Director

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Marketing Director

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