As consumer behaviour shifts and communications become more personalised and fragmented, one thing is certain – brands that remain immutable will struggle to find success. Evolution and flexibility of brand communications is key to delivering long term growth and acquiring new audiences.
Much has been written in recent weeks around the success of Labour’s campaign communications strategy during the recent general election in connecting with and mobilising the youth vote – a fantastic example of flexibility in brand communications. What became apparent as the campaign unfolded is that the mode of message delivery can matter as much as the message itself when seeking to be relevant, authentic and connect with a target audience.
Early on in the campaign, Labour embraced social media and its power as a channel, driving advocacy and authenticity. Labour went beyond focusing simply on targeted, paid social advertising by incorporating social media as a primary organic messaging channel. Jeremy Corbyn was the first mainstream politician to create his own Snapchat account, using it to showcase Labour’s ‘For the Many Not the Few’ positioning in a framework that resonated with a young audience/grime fan via his candid conversation with JME. The ensuing viral spread of the content and further amplification via earned media delivered valuable momentum for Labour at a grassroots level.
In addition to using Snapchat and other social media as core communication channels, Labour executed a strategy that delivered their brand message in the context of the passion points that matter to the youth voter they were targeting. From grime to indie music and music festivals to discussions with online sports network Copa90, Corbyn deftly framed Labour’s key policies against a background of subjects that appeal most to the youth voter.
Labour also understood the power of experience and advocacy among their youth target audience by staging frequent events on a mass scale, providing opportunities for this audience to broadcast their individual experiences of the Labour brand via their own social media channels. But ‘traditional’ media was not ignored – Corbyn’s last minute participation in the televised leaders’ debate ensured the core Labour proposition was communicated within the context of the broadest issues of the election.
In contrast to the Labour approach, the narrowly focused, push communications strategy of the Conservatives seemed out of date. There was a distinct lack of flexibility in framing the Conservative offer in a way that allowed Brits from a variety of backgrounds and ages to easily connect with the campaign. Despite out-spending the other parties in paid social to target and deliver literally thousands of personalised messages, the Conservative strategy failed in a basic understanding of what makes messaging relatable. More broadly, the Conservative campaign seemed to underestimate the power of online media, especially its effectiveness in driving advocacy and authenticity – key to driving relatability.
In general, the influence of traditional media brands is waning, especially amongst younger audiences who have fewer loyalties to media brands. And while the youth vote may not have been a primary target for the Conservatives, as any brand marketer knows, it’s only through acquisition of new audiences that your brand will have a long and healthy future. Based on this year’s election campaign it would seem Labour is the only party to have embraced the principles of brand evolution – rejecting immutability in favour of the flexibility the digital communications landscape offers.