Dave Trott on #EdStone: Stone Daft

Politicians have been in a rush to use marketing.

Dave Trott
Dave Trott

They know marketing sells things.

They want to win an election, which is the same as selling something.

Fair enough.

But where this logic falls down is not all marketing is good marketing.

Politicians haven’t worked this out yet.

But surely that’s the whole point of being a client: knowing the difference between good marketing and bad marketing.

Like anything else: good works, bad doesn’t.

The point about marketing is, it isn’t about what you want to say.

It’s about what your market (people) needs to hear.

What they need to hear are two things:

1) Clear and simple

2) What makes you different

Bad marketing people don’t understand this.

Ed Miliband didn’t understand this.

He just said what he wanted, instead of sticking to those two rules.

He decided a great stunt would be to have his pledges carved in stone.

Then he fell in love with that gimmick.

He went on TV in front of a ten-foot tall block of stone.

But the important thing is WHAT you have carved in stone.

Ed had SIX pledges carved in stone.

So that’s "clear and simple" out the window straight away.

Clear and simple must mean a single, easily understandable thought.

Six pledges isn’t that.

It’s refusing to prioritise what is the thing that makes you different.

Which brings us to point two, "What makes you different?"

Identifying that is surely the whole point of a marketing department.

Otherwise what do they do, just make a list?

Well it seems the answer is yes.

They just make a list.

Here it is what Ed Miliband cast in stone.

1) A STRONG ECONOMIC FOUNDATION (Okay, who wouldn’t claim that? Everyone from the Greens to UKIP would claim a strong economy, so it doesn’t make you different.)

2) HIGHER LIVING STANDARDS FOR WORKING FAMILIES (Again, everyone would claim this, it’s so bland as to be meaningless. They could have said "the rich should pay more" but they didn’t want to alienate anyone.)

3) AN NHS WITH TIME TO CARE (Could have been their single, clear thought: "Save The NHS". But it was lost in a bland expression.)

4) CONTROLS ON IMMIGRATION (I thought this was UKIP’s position. Is it there to say "Labour does that too", if so, how does it make you different?)

5) A COUNTRY WHERE THE NEXT GENERATION CAN DO BETTER THAN THE LAST (Again, everyone claims this, it’s vaguely about opportunity. Will you do anything different, if so why not say what that is?)

6) HOMES TO BUY AND ACTION ON RENTS (Two thoughts in one, why not: "Homes for all, not just the rich"? Probably because they don’t want to alienate homeowners, so why say it if you can’t say it powerfully?)

What you are left with is a message "carved In stone" that tries to say everything to everyone.

It avoids differentiation in case it offends anyone.

It isn’t marketing, it’s just a list: a mind dump.

Thinking that a gimmick, like carving something in stone, is more important than what you carve in stone.

When a few simple words on paper would have been more powerful.

If they were the right words.

Which is marketing’s job.

As David Ogilvy said: "The essence of strategy is sacrifice."

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