Written by Tom Jennings
This European election campaign has been far from run of the mill.
Traditional assumptions blown out of the window.
Political norms no longer relevant.
One of the major points of the campaign has been the arrival on the electoral scene of two new parties; Change UK and the Brexit Party.
Both staunchly on opposite sides of the Brexit debate, they've provided a case study of how (not) to do digital as a new party.
This is far from a subjective debate.
Change UK won no seats, and the Brexit Party won 29.
One campaign worked, and one campaign did not. But why?
The names of the respective parties make it abundantly clear as to why their fortunes have been so different.
The Brexit Party: a crystal-clear meaning, immediate appeal, and ability to attract support even from people who know nothing about the party.
Change UK: Extremely vague, confusing, and does not explicitly state the core message, meaning pro-remain voters who are not politically engaged could easily miss it.
The first signs of trouble for Change UK was the (failed) launch of their logo.
With their logo being rejected by the electoral commission as it included a hashtag and was not clear to voters, the party’s candidates were listed next to a blank space on the ballot.
An apt metaphor for the new party.
Now currently using a logo formed of four horizontal black stripes, it hasn’t helped shake off any embarrassment as branding consultants and logo designers have pointed out its depressing blandness and similarity to the ‘hamburger button’ on websites and smartphones.
In contrast and in typical Nigel style, the Brexit Party was loud, boisterous, and consistently and ruthlessly on message; Brexit. Brexit. Brexit. Leave. Leave. Leave.
Logos exist to distil everything you stand for, and The Brexit Party logo couldn’t have been clearer.
Some will conclude it’s simply an exit sign referencing Britain’s leaving of the EU no matter what.
But It’s quite clearly also an arrow with the word BREXIT written in large font, pointing at the box where you mark your X.
90% of information processed by the brain is visual, with images being processed 60,000 times faster than text.
The Brexit logo therefore, was highly likely to be the clearest intuitive item on the whole ballot paper.
Another contrast in strengths is best illustrated by a quick Google search.
During the election, The Brexit Party’s top results all linked (and still do) directly to the party itself.
Whether it be their video content, news stories or the party’s social media account, this may be the one time where Brexit really does mean Brexit.
On the other hand, Change UK’s results were far less positive.
Whether it was stories on climate change, the petition site Change.org, or a hospitality recruitment firm, there were various vague results mixed in with what little engagement there has been with the Pro-Remain party.
Clearly, despite the war chest Change UK had built up, no-one on their digital team had ever heard of Search Engine Optimisation - the process of indexing your website with Google.
Just as you wouldn't own a house without a postal address or a phone without a number. Without SEO, your website isn't categorised correctly meaning you could be missed out on ideal search results.
Google is only the start of Change UK’s digital worries, as they fell victim to a a tried and tested piece of political mischief.
Back in 2015, Liz Kendall failed to register her '.co.uk' domain during her Labour leadership run, leaving herself open to trollers who registered the domain and embedded Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" - an infamous song associated with pranks - on the site on a continous loop.
Change UK suffered a similar fate when they rebranded from The Independent Group to change UK, changing their Twitter handle in the process to @ForChange_Now.
This left their old Twitter account @TheIndGroup open to grab, and it was ruthlessly exploited by pro-Brexit hackers, posting memes and pro-Brexit propaganda.
An absolutely tragic error that even a digital apprentice on their first day couldn't mess up as bad. We hope the lesson will now be learnt.
It’s not just the central team at Change UK that have got it wrong online.
A lack of consistency and clarity in the accounts of their candidates and regional groups, who are often simply wanting to help, has created a totally confused free for all.
Although forgivable after various name changes, the confusion results in zero brand consistency at grassroots.
Whether it be “ChangeUkESufflk”, “WestminsterTIG”, or “DanPriceINDY”, it would seem that their own members and supporters, as well as the public, don’t seem to know who they are.
Contrast this with the Brexit Party whom in keeping things simple for their grassroots, have empowered their base to adopt a flashy logo, clear colour palette, and clean central narrative.
Upon any launch, a brandscape is key to ensuring you, your team, and eager activists follow clear guidelines on how the candidate or campaign should appear across any and every platform.
Did you spot it? Take another look above.
Change UK’s ill-discipline extended to their purse strings.
The party spent over £80,000 on Facebook Ads in the run up to polling day, and they provided little value for money.
One error in particular saw the new party widely ridiculed.
The pro-EU party seemed to be harking back to the Scottish Independence referendum of 2014 when they paid £1,300 promoting a number of ads that asked voters to “remain in the UK”.
By stark contrast, The Brexit Party executed a ruthlessly efficient social media campaign courtesy of 19-year-old Steve Edgington, previously of website Westmonster.
Spending less than Change UK and Labour on Facebook ads, The Brexit Party instead utilised an incredibly enthusiastic and engaged follower base to spread their slick campaign videos far and wide.
The lesson here (other than proof reading) is that whilst you can buy people's attention, you can't buy their engagement.
We are Civitas exists to transform how campaigns, candidates and incumbents engage their most important people.
To run a successful political campaign, numerous variants from fundraising to voter mobilisation must be well-planned and precisely executed, with digital at the heart of the operation and the unknown always prepared for.
Our experience on local, regional and national campaigns best places us to offer that crucial co-ordination, forward planning and digital insight to ensure a road to victory is laid out.
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