Time to throw out any misconceptions, or predictions for that matter. 12 December is confirmed for a general election and it really is anyone’s game. Well, apart from the marketing machines for each of the political parties, which are now working overtime to get the respective messages across TV, print and social media. Armed with their biggest weapon, data.

 

It is all so last minute, will we have time for an effective general election campaign? 

Like all major marketing objectives, the planning of this has been done months in advance of this decision. Although the situation with Brexit has been quite fluid, the political parties will have edged their bets on a general election happening sooner rather than later.

 

Line up the target

Each political party will have identified where they need to work most effectively to get the best results. This will mean harder campaigns in areas they are most likely to gain a new seat, the marginal seats will be the easiest to pick up first. This objective combined with political unrest and uncertainty in areas that could be swayed on a harder or softer stance on Brexit. For example, a Labour dominated constituency that voted to leave the EU will most likely be targeted by the Conservatives hoping to sway Labour voters who want to get Brexit done sooner rather than later.

 

Geographical bias

Marketing deliverables in this general election will really focus hard on putting out a message to doubters and ‘swayers’ in specific areas where the political parties could have the most to gain. These areas will have been identified right down to postcodes and streets. But then add into the mix of how affluent the area is and if there are any other factors like industry, religion and crime rate. The political parties can really use micro marketing to make the voter feel like the respective MP is really talking to them direct and addressing the local issues.

 

It’s back to that four-letter word – data. With so much information out there about you, the area where you live, what you spend your money on, watch on TV; the car you drive, the school your kids go to, etc. This is information that can easily be used to effectively market a product or service and, in this case, market the manifesto of a political party.

 

Don’t underestimate the dark side

There is real evidence of what I call ‘dark marketing’ in the past ten years influencing political campaigns through targeted advertising. The issues of the past with data collection being used to political gain has been highlighted through investigations into bad practice. The misuse of data by Cambridge Analytica both in the last US election and the 2016 Brexit referendum voting has brought to the fore what damage can be caused. This is the dark part of marketing I really don’t like.

 

Taking the moral high ground 

So, this last week Twitter has agreed to not allow political parties to advertise on their social platform, which I do commend. Facebook however will continue to allow it. Considering Twitter has less than a tenth of the users of Facebook, this isn’t going to make a huge difference. But beware Facebook, as the world is watching and scrutinising what you do this time and what you will allow the political landscape to achieve.

 

There is a really insightful documentary around the misuse of social media platform and user data called “The Great Hack” on Netflix. It is based around the use of data by Cambridge Analytica in a number of political campaigns around the world. It really does make you think about how you use your social media. For the social media platforms it’s about the ethical use of user’s data versus the financial and power advantages this creates.

 

The gift that just keeps giving 

Inevitably it’s about how much information you, as the user, allows social networks and service providers to have. The dark side of marketing will always challenge society whether this is being driven by the leaders of countries, political factions or large organisations. Of course, we can’t leave the mainstream media and the internet out of this either. As individuals we are insightful and intelligent. As the masses we tend to believe what we are being told when watching the 10 o’clock news. Fake news is still fake regardless of who is using it to promote or defend themselves.

 

Don’t believe everything you see or hear, look a little deeper to see why you are being told it.