So here we are. After four months of campaigning from #VoteLeave and #VoteRemain, the ballots have been counted and results are in. We're out.
One of the world's superpowers and fifth largest economy has turned its back on an institution designed for diplomacy, security and trade. Since we're, as David Cameron kept saying, stronger together (or was that the Scottish independence referendum), we're now vulnerable and alone. The sun has finally set on the empire.
We're still feeling the aftershocks of what such a momentous decision means for us as a nation; politically and culturally. What we're are certain of, is that the campaign was an omnishambles, soup to nuts. And as a result the electorate were lied to, mislead and divided.
If perhaps the ruling powers were able to listen and interact with us common folk, they may have been able to create a hard-hitting, effective campaign with positive results. Here are some lessons learnt and foolproof marketing tips for the next big campaign:
1. Content and tone
As a copywriter, I speak in the customer's language; making everything clear and engaging. Politicians and campaigners forget these rules. Their social media posts, emails, leaflets and, indeed, speeches are dull, incomprehensible and littered with jargon.
Instead of saying legislation, say law or instead of Maastricht Treaty, say 'when Europe officially united'. The reason Nigel Farage and BoJo do so well is because they speak bluntly and naturally, they avoid long words, flowery language and they don't sound like they've come out of a Westminster clone machine.
Also, as anyone who's worked on any corporate campaign knows, you need to substantiate any claim. Stay away from saying 'free', when in fact you're paying a premium for it or 'best ever' when you can't prove it. Again, campaigners failed to provide this, which the most crucial part of the message, instead opting to use buzzwords, empty soundbites or pompous monologues.
Words are powerful, so most people believe everything they read and hear without questioning its authenticity, validity or integrity.
Voting isn't just about one item on the manifesto and it doesn't just affect you. Saying things like 'why give £350 million a day to the EU, when it can be spent on the NHS' isn't good enough. You need to make it clear where this figure came from and how you intend to make this happen. A lot of people don't realise that when a politician is making a claim, they need to draft the legislation, put it through select committees, argue it in chambers several times, get a majority vote, pass it to the Lords for approval/amends, signed off by the Queen and implemented by the judiciary. You need to invoke the powers of responsible marketing, so not to mislead or oversimplify.
Words are also permanent - in a world where you tweet about your walk to work, Instagram your dinners and post videos of cats, everything you say and do will be on record and accessible to the public, waiting to bite you on the bum.
2. Communication methods
The Tories spent £9 million on sending a referendum leaflet to every household. A move that proved controversial as public money was used to tell only one side of the story. In a digital age, the cost of print and postage (not to mention the cost to the environment) is a gross waste of money.
The leaflet should've been a responsive, low-weighted, DDA compliant website that clearly outlined what the EU is, what it's responsible for, what it's done in the past, what it plans to do in the future and how the process works. Then talk about its benefits and how we can reform its flaws. With information that clear, you don't even need to make a case for #VoteLeave because it's all there.
The video is contemporary, sexy and emotional. It plays on our sense of belonging, family and security to get its message across. Using key principles of behavioural economics, it shows people doing everyday things we take for granted and translates that into the harsh reality for children in East Africa - ending on a sense of empowerment through knowledge and activism. Something like this would've been invaluable for the #VoteRemain campaign.
The other thing it does well, is it translates seamlessly into other channels - building a sense of community around it. Remain could've had a group of bloggers, vloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers, Instagrammers, Snapchatters and Tumblrs to disseminate the message into every channel, therefore increasing awareness, following, page views, shares, brand advocacy and user-generated content. That's when it goes viral - people inevitably want to show-off, enhance their digital persona and build their personal brand. So give them the tools to do that while hammering home your the message.
What the Remain campaign actually produced was a video that went viral for a day because it was patronising, dated and out-of-touch. What genius thought, 'millennials, yeah, they speak sloppily, yeah, so we could make a video representing their everyday lives, yeah, but dropping the G, yeah, and the end of the word also says in, yeah, so subliminally telling them how to vote, yeah'. Er, no.
The video gave them no information as to why they should vote in, it didn't even look like it was shot in the UK and used none of the practices outlined point one of this blog post.
3. Experiential marketing
This is where you play into people's FOMO (fear of missing out). Create an event (I don't mean a gig with Reynold's Girls, Big Fun and The Chuckle Brothers on the line-up) that people in the street can be part of. You'll get an automatic uplift in engagement and also your average Joe can do all your marketing for you - through indirect advocacy and visibility across all social channels.
Why didn't the Remain campaign have stalls in shopping centres, transport hubs and festivals with free European video calling, Spanish flamenco dancing, French wine tasting, Greek cookery classes or Romanian theatre. Why didn't they cash in on all the celebs who supported the cause, asking them to appear at events, hold lectures or signings. If David Beckham showed up on a Sunderland high street with a football and goal, inviting passers-by for a kickabout in a place adorned with 'Remain' posters, banners, leaflets and merchandise, I bet the swing would've gone in the other direction.
Similarly, get people from across the Muslim community to help campaign. They can go to social clubs to talk about their religion and culture, their views on terrorism and how they can help to prevent it. Through this, you're creating a personal relationship, offering peace of mind and education.
4. Understand your audience
Lastly, and more importantly, who are you talking to and what do they want you to say. Before a word is written or Photoshop is opened, find out what people like, what they don't like, what they know and what they don't know about the EU. Then you'll know how to tailor your comms.
If the majority of people have concerns about immigration, then it's essential to reassure, educate and the promote benefits. So, fight Nige's Breaking Point poster with a Faking It poster, showing beautiful Spanish men serenading obese women at the bingo, beautiful Polish women serving beer to toothless men in Wetherspoons, Italian chefs making mouth-watering dishes in a Little Chef, German car engineers riding around on Sinclair C5, French stallions showing geeks how to pull while speed dating in village hall.
Marketing is all about selling a lifestyle, not a product. By illustrating how European immigration makes our crappy grey lives glamorous, you've immediately created a positive aspiration. If their concerns are about Middle-Eastern and African immigration specifically, then an education piece is needed as to why we need to support them, that actually a Brexit won't change the outcome and how immigration contributes to our society.
It can get granular and therefore more targeted. Find out what demographic is voting out and why? Use analytics to find out how people are using comms, where, what time of day, what they're saying, what channels are they engaging with, how long are they spending on it, what devices/browsers they're using, etc. Scrap what doesn't work, refine what's middling and push what does. And why not hire a social media team to scour the internet and reply to tweets, posts, forums, status, etc. even counter anything posted by the opposing side using key customer service and comms methods. This level of insight is essential before, during and after every campaign.
Instead of getting on buses and talking to the staff at B&Q, go into universities or hospitals to talk to ordinary people about their worries for the future. Is it getting a job after graduation, is it paying off student debt, is it the ability to buy a house, is it waiting lists, is it targets, is it resources? Use this to reassure the population, address their problems, translate it into marketing and perhaps even get some gems for future policies. It'll be uncomfortable, they'll have to defend decisions and they'll need to apologise, but it'll be worth it in the long-run.
This entire campaign, on both sides, has changed our culture as it was run by people who use dated ideologies like Machiavelli's divide and conquer and antiquated creative direction. Although they managed to divide just about everybody, there is no conqueror.
Our economy is on its knees, we've alienated a large part of the population and our neighbours, we've torn apart the British Isles and the integrity of politicians is in tatters. It's time politics led by example, by being transparent, showing humility, embracing progress, understanding the electorate and living in our world - the only way they can do that is through effective communications and killer marketing techniques.