STRONG AND STABLE: DEATH OF THE KEY MESSAGE
Much has been written in marketing circles about the power of the single minded proposition. Byron Sharp, author of the marketers bible du jour ‘How Brands Grow’ advocates the strategy of communicating one simple message consistently to a wide audience, across multiple channels, in order to grow penetration. (The brand equivalent of winning an election).
It seems that fellow Aussie, Sir Lynton Crosby, the Tory Party political strategist agreed with that theory. The Conservative Party election campaign focussed on Theresa May with an appeal to voters to back her ‘Strong and Stable’ leadership.
It backfired spectacularly. Why?
In the communications world we love shiny and new and revel in the demise of the established order. The internet is littered with self-proclaimed futurologists predicting the death of whatever is in vogue: advertising, Twitter, take your pick.
Is this the end of the single minded proposition? Did General Election 2017 herald the end of the central tenet of communications strategy as we know it?
The communications industry obsesses with its output: the message, the idea, the channel and loses sight of its purpose. The role of communications is to explain a reality. If we lose sight of that and fail to hold a mirror up to those we serve, then campaigns fail.
Strong and Stable failed for a number of reasons. It was obvious that repeating the phrase verbatim to every question would attract ridicule, but worse it insulted voters’ intelligence. A classic failing for communications planners who assume audiences are dumb recipients of messaging which they will blindly adhere to.
By under-estimating the audience, Theresa May’s advisors ignored the real communications issue: her leadership skills. Being secretive, stubborn and untrusting might seem strong and stable to those in the tent, but to the real world it smacks of insecurity and weakness.
Jeremy Corbyn appealed because his belief in ‘The many not the few’ was an authentic, single minded message consistently communicated across multiple channels. Sound familiar?
The communications world has learnt nothing new from the election result this morning. The old rules of political campaigning prevailed and the principle of single minded messaging worked. The failing was that Theresa May was never a Strong and Stable leader.
Don’t communicate a lie and respect your audience’s intelligence.