+ Point of view

Marketing to a well hung electorate

Written by Paul Maher

Today’s UK election fudge, with no clear leader for the country at least this weekend, has been widely described as a ‘mess’. From a marketing perspective, one could say it was a failure. When the two competing messages were ‘stability’ and ‘change’, the UK electorate said ‘Er…. We’ll think about it’.

So, in marketing terms is this failure? That is not so easy to answer. If a consumer walks into a store and does not express a definite preference for one brand over another, this could be seen as failure, or alternatively, an opportunity to drive that decision right there and then ‘at the point of sale’. Given the inability of the electorate to make a clear choice, albeit based on less-than-full disclosure about how the deficit will be tackled, we are right there, but the decision is out of our hands, for now.

Whatever coalition emerges, the spotlight will be on their ability to steer the economy out of recession. If the UK is to move forward from the two party tango, this makes the winning coalition, the ultimate apprenticeship for their marketing teams. Those involved really do have a chance to trumpet their success, or fail and get back to more, perhaps more decisive, electioneering. Either will require a great deal of salesmanship.

I recently saw marketing described, in a phrase that is very apt in technology marketing, as anti-marketing, the denial of choice. How many Microsoft products are available in an Apple store? How many food brands does Marks & Spencer carry?

Is this really all that what we, as a profession, are about? We are employed to offer new choices and deny others simultaneously, an option available in a ‘first past the post’ democracy, but this is not an option with a hung parliament. The pre-2010 system effectively limited this choice to just two parties. Today’s results bring a range of possible combinations, so increasing choice and choice is what drives both innovation and marketing over the long term.

For that reason, I think today’s result could bring more, not less, engagement in politics. More marketing please.