Digital Marketing & Politics; Can Labour Outwit The Conservatives?

Political parties, just like businesses, must attract, sometimes convert, close and almost always delight. Unsurprisingly then, parties which have demonstrated proficiency with digital marketing strategies with a dedicated budget have dominated around the world.

If there's one thing the conservatives learned from the 2008 and 2012 American elections, it was that Obama and his team used digital marketing in a way that no other political party had before. While us Brits were dropping the same leaflets by the postcode, the Americans were segmenting their demographics and intelligently targeting users based on behaviours. Fast forward a couple of years to the 2015 general election here in the UK and the Conservatives had developed a digital strategy which would put most businesses to shame.

Here’s how the Torries won in 2015

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In the last election, the Tories ran their digital marketing campaign like we would run a campaign. They started with a form of persona building which helped them map out which policies would attract which demographics, “older people for example would get something on what a strong economy means for pension, younger people on our help to buy scheme and so on,” that was a quote from Craig Elder, Digital Director of the Conservative Party. Just as we would, Craig and his team first worked to understand the challenges of voters.

Labour on the other hand had invested large resources and funds into creating engaging content on social platforms like Vine and Tumblr, platforms known for their younger users. Posting on such platforms, with such a demographic provides very little return. Had Labour been selling Simpsons socks, Tumblr and Vine would have been perfect.

Having deep pockets also helps when it comes to the placement of ads. To put budgets into perceptive, I have made the graphic below which compares spending by both parties on social platforms. Figures gained from the Electoral Commission.

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The conservatives spent £1.2m on Facebook ads in comparison to the £16,000 labour had spent, the Tories also spent £300,000 on Google AdWords while Labour spent £1000.

Put it this way, imagine if one of your biggest competitors was using the power of social ads just as the Conservatives were, spending 18 times that of what you are on Facebook and 300 times more than your budget on Google AdWords. You simply wouldn’t stand a chance. I know, just as most marketing interns know, the more times your brand can reach, connect and engage with a user, the more likely a user will connect with the brand, this is called ‘effective frequency.’

Political and Digital Marketing Strategies of 2017? 

With Corbyn came a surge of party members, bringing around £4.5 million to the party, it could also be argued that, David Cameron’s messy Brexit retirement/failure has thrown off the Conservative’s social capitol.

Here is how both parties and party leaders currently look in terms of social influence.

Facebook Page Likes: 

Labour: 628,000

Conservative: 575,000

Facebook Follows

Jeremy Corbyn: 879,000

Theresa May: 369,000

Twitter Follows:

Jeremy Corbyn : 879,000

Theresa May: 301,000

You may find it interesting to know that former Prime Minister David Cameron sits snug with a total of 1,231,514 followers on Facebook.

2017 Social strategies

Facebook now boasts a staggering 32 million accounts in the United Kingdom, meaning that its social power is incredibly strong. 

Fast-forward to 2017 and Theresa May has called for another general election, during the past two weeks, both parties have fought ferociously to gain momentum over the other.

Interestingly, Labour has solidified its commitment to Facebook, stating that it will match conservative spending during this election. Until recently there was no way digital marketers could track and record party ads and their placements, that was until a site titled “Who Targets Me” setup a bid to analyse and shed light on who each party is targeting and with which ad.

This site works by tracking user data via cookies and volunteers who input data themselves, it gathers data on which parties are using which ads. This coupled with the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s research allows us to take a look into both strategies.

Labour Digital Strategy

From all ads reviewed, only two mentioned or referred to Jeremy Corbyn. From the ads captured, Labour is focusing on the political stances taken by the Conservatives; pushing ads which highlight Theresa May’s position on the controversial Fox hunting ban as well as other policies.

Labour really have learned from the last campaign by utilising an in-house solution trailed by Sadiq Kahn’s highly popular campaign, Labour is, in fact, using its resources wisely.

“(Data) is open to local campaign teams so for example if they are vying for a seat served by Southern rail, they can target voters with our message about bringing the railways back into public ownership,” said a Labour source. Read more here - 

Labour are astutely aware of the growing disdain toward austerity within Britain and have used this as the core challenge of the British people, hence their comprehensive manifesto.

Labour's core challenge: Social & economic policies of the current Tory Government.

The conservatives, on the other hand, have built their strategy around the opposition leader instead of his policies. Out of the 10 adverts captured, all 10 attack Jeremy Corbyn, with the vast majority of them comparing May to Corbyn. It may have been the focus groups or it may have been Conservative intuition but the party has placed leadership to be the primary challenge of the British people. They have then worked back from this challenge. Hence the emphasis on strong and stable leadership. This coupled with May’s refusal to debate on television positions her above the opposition, while the parties attack ads further undermine Jeremy Corbyn.

Conservative core challenge: Leadership through a post Brexit Britain.

Looking at both strategies from afar, by attacking Jeremy Corbyn, the conservatives only undermine their own strength, appearing petty and bullish. When you can't attack a person's morals, you attack their personality. Labours strategy of focusing on policy instead of leadership, however, can be argued to be blind of the overarching cloud of uncertainty that comes with Brexit negotiations. An oversight voters may not appreciate. All in all, it's clear that Labours campaign appears to be holding its own as the most recent poll suggests the party has gained five points, this still places the Tories a whole 13 points ahead. 

Which party addresses your challenge most accurately?