If You Don’t Stand For Something, No One Will Care

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UPDATE: I was pointed towards this rather excellent event, Once Upon A Time, which is related to the post that follows. The event is part of the All Brand Stories season from my good friends Matt Desmier and Mark Masters. You should go. Book here.

I’m already certain there are numerous articles written and published about the 10 things brands can learn from the general election in the UK. It’s okay, I’m not about to add to the list. I hope.

Aside: you may be interested in reading Antony Mayfield’s piece on why Labour’s strategy failed. It’s more erudite than my crude thoughts.

However, what has been interesting to me, and a potential insight that anyone who works in a strategic or planning role, is that the party that won a majority stood for something. You may not have agreed with it, but they stuck to it. Everywhere.

The thing about a strategy is that it should be a clear path to achieving a result. It’s not the goal itself, but the how you’ll use what you have to hand (or can create) to do something. And the best strategies are laser-focused.

Looking back at Labour’s campaign, we can see a lot of proof points, a huge amount of goals, but I didn’t notice any strategy underpinning it. Nothing they said made me think what they wanted to achieve was actually going to be achieved. Similarly, with the Liberal Democrats – empty rhetoric designed to get people talking, but zero substance.

The other thing that I spotted was the absolute lack of agreement within the ranks, except for the Conservatives (and the SNP). Every Tory kept to the same message. I can’t recall any of the Labour or Liberal Democrats party saying anything, except for the leaders of those parties. UKIP were consistent, but racism is hardly a platform from which to build. A successful strategy has to get everybody behind it, to ensure consistency from the lowest ranks to the leaders. There can be no wavering from the chosen path, either.

Opposing campaign messages from others is just that: opposing views. These are not strategies in and of themselves. If anything they serve to shed light on the strategy of your opponent. And if theirs exists, and is stronger, then it’s easy to understand why the result ended as it did.

Let’s move away from politics for a second.

Coca-Cola was, for many years, a brand without a strategy. Sure they had great goals and a consistent message, but it didn’t inspire – which, as discussed, a decent strategy needs to do. And as they leaned back on their hard-won brand messaging, so they began to lose market share. What to do?

The first thing was to construct a strategy – to not focus on the product, but to focus on the ‘experience’ of drinking it. Nothing groundbreaking there, perhaps, but it’s a strategy. What is the experience of drinking a Coke? Well, it makes you feel happy. Everything that Coke did from that moment was designed to create and share happiness. Everything. No matter than channel, the medium, the audience. I’d say it’s been very successful.

They stood for something. It’s clear what that something was, and still is.

If I were in the Labour party and looking for my next move, I’d start with creating a strategy. And that’s not something to be created in a blink of an eye. It will take some planning, a lot of thinking and undoubtedly it’ll piss off a lot of people. I’d certainly like to have a crack at it – and I reckon I could pull together a team to do it.

Because, if it’s done well and the strategy is sound – and if they stick to executing that strategy in everything they do over the next five years – then they have a chance. But they have to stand for something, not just shout opposing views from the sidelines. That’s not a strategy; it’s the sound of a party that doesn’t have one.

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