What Marketeers Must Learn From Recent Politics

Elitism is not just a political disease; it’s a marketing one also.

Politicians, media and liberal metropolitan voters have been shocked by recent political events both sides of the Atlantic. As such, some high-profile politicians and parties have widely been accused of being out-of-touch with voters; instead belonging to a political elite. But before we point the finger of blame, us marketeers need to take a long, hard look at ourselves, because we are the marketing elite.

The Marketing Elite

Yes, it’s us; a group of generally:

  • Middle class
  • Caucasian
  • Degree educated
  • Metropolitan in attitude, if not location, professionals

We join the world of marketing because we are attracted by ideas and creativity (naturally open—minded and curious anyone?), we have learned how to decode design and communications quickly and effectively, and we must stay abreast of current trends, thinking and technology to do our jobs effectively. We also earn tens of thousands of pounds a year more than Joe Public.

So to use marketing elite speak; our ‘demographics, attitudes and behaviours’ make us not normal – ergo not naturally in-touch with our customers and consumers.

For us at The Strategy Distillery, the proof is in the pudding; so often we spend time with customers and consumers who reject potentially brilliant ideas because they aren’t communicated in a way that makes sense to them, or reject our clients’ pet ideas because they aren’t made relevant to their lives and concerns.

The political elite pitfalls and what we can learn from them:

Doing a Dave:

Politicians like David Cameron and George Osborne are criticised for their backgrounds. As old Etonians they are not thought to have “walked in the shoes” of their constituents, especially as they have never done “real” jobs. Same goes for us as marketeers. It’s not practical to take a sabbatical as a plumber or relocate from Surrey to Bradford, we get that. So consider:

  • Watching Gogglebox
  • Reading the Daily Mail and The Sun
  • Sitting in a fast food restaurant watching and listening
  • Get out of London, even the South East

Doing a Jeremy:

Jeremy Corbyn is criticised for not appearing to address head-on the fears and concerns of “the average working person” and instead ploughing his own noble ideals. Really listening to the real people who buy your products and services is key to not falling into this trap. So consider:

  • Spending time with them face to face – an online survey can only serve your agenda, plus you need to know not just what they are thinking but WHY
  • Spending time with them in natural scenarios – a focus group is not real life!
  • Allowing them to help you create solutions and solve problems – with an on-going dialogue around it, you will get to know them much better as well as get answers you might not of thought of
  • Don’t just surround yourself with the converted, get out of your comfort zone

The lessons we can learn from those who have challenged the political status quo:

Doing a Boris:

He famously hinged the Brexit campaign on migration fears and more money for the NHS. Learnings:

  • Find out your primary and secondary targets’ most important problems/concerns to be addressed – not just what you perceive to be important
  • Focus clearly on the above with just one or two clear and poignant messages, i.e. don’t overwhelm them with your agenda
  • Support with simple to understand (substantiated!) facts that directly relate to the above. It will help you to be perceived as credible and gain trust

Doing a Trump:

  • Don’t try to please everyone – consumers, like voters, can’t engage with diluted messages that are the same as everyone else’s, instead they just switch off. Be clearly different in message, language and appearance if you want to strike a deep connection
  • Beware the polls – if we learned anything from recent politics it’s that predicting the future is almost impossible, so ditch your trend and ad agency predictions and instead create the future, lead the market, show the way
  • Beware the advisors – true you can’t do it all alone, but don’t forget that everyone you work with is part of the same marketing elite and they don’t know your customers and consumers instinctively either

Getting this wrong; being out of touch and thinking WE are normal, means losing share to the competition and even creating spaces for new competition to come in and operate very effectively – just as we have seen in USA and UK politics. But getting it right means winning over targets you never even thought possible and truly disrupting the political regime, sorry – I mean market in which you are operating.