Making up your mind: the politics of election marketing

Includes links to all party manifestos

Written by Kaia Vincent, Director at Brevity

Most people I’ve spoken with about the election have yet to make their mind up about how to vote. Losing faith in our political system is fueled by MPs promises and intentions not matching their actions – time after time, after time.

Step back 40 years to a time when political persuasion seemed arguably more simplistic. If you were from a working-class background, you and your entire family were more than likely to always vote Labour or perhaps Liberal. A vote for Conservatives was highly dominated by the middle class and upper peerage.

Today, the electorate is coloured with far more complexity and nuance. People are increasingly individual, have less party loyalty, and enjoy access to a plethora of information and intelligence. There’s also more choice in party representation. Many families no longer share the same political views – so political discussions across the dining table this Christmas could be fierier than a flaming figgy pudding.

Who is winning with their election campaign marketing?

Marketing is an important aspect of every party’s election campaign. They are all trying to persuade us to jump on their campaign bus and ultimately hand over our vote. Although some parties obviously have bigger budgets, there are still rules in place to govern advertising and marketing spending to keep it a fairer playing field.

Every party must record spend for:

  • All advertising – from YouTube videos to banners
  • Leaflets or letters sent to voters’ homes
  • A manifesto or any other documents that set out a party’s policies
  • Press conferences, rallies and related expenses
  • Transport to party events

Spend is also capped at £30K for each constituency that it contests in a general election. So, if a party stood a candidate in each of the 650 UK constituencies, its maximum spend would be £19.5M.

Statistics source: BBC

Statistics source: Electoral Commission

Where does this marketing spend go? US tech giants winning the lion’s share

According to the Electoral Commission, during the last election political parties spent 17 times more with US tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google than on traditional media.

One area of marketing spend is party websites. If you check out ‘Way Back Machine’ you can go ‘back in time’ and view the amends parties have made to their website for the election campaign. It may provide insight as to what they want you to know and what they want you to forget!

Digital marketing activity by party

In this section, I review Google descriptions, election straplines, manifesto content as well as the number of clicks it takes to get to the manifesto – to see who is marketing to voters in the most effective way.

Google descriptions

Type any party name into Google and this is what you’re presented with. Indeed, Google can pick and choose the description content – that’s the sentence underneath the website address. It can also decide which are the most important links.

Search winner: Conservatives

The Conservatives have gone all out to ‘stand out’ and get their voice heard, going as far as changing their website address to Their title is reflective of their overall election strapline, ensuring consistency when entering the website.


Strapline winner: Labour

It’s time for real change. For the many not for the few.

Why? The statement demonstrates you can get your point across without using ‘shouty’ uppercase or title case throughout. The power should come from the words, rather than purely from a typeface. Capital letters can also make content difficult to read and using them within a strapline makes it difficult to deliver consistency.

Labour’s strapline is clear and easy to read, getting to the point without using big or many words; literally speaking to all reading levels. They also haven’t completely dominated their message with Brexit – the statement is about the change.

Home page welcome – the best bits

Any home page should allow a visitor to get an instant feel for what it’s delivering. Important information or assets should be easy to find (in marketing we call this ‘above-the-fold’) and clicks should be minimised to three. For political parties, we are measuring them on how easy it is to find their manifesto (or ‘Contract with the People’ as rebranded by the Brexit Party) and then how this is delivered for everyone.

A winning video – at an optimum length of less than three minutes, the Brexit video is highly creative and engaging, using a young artist to tell ‘the story’. Packing a lot in, it enlightens the general public about why it’s best to leave the EU with the Brexit Party rather remaining with the Conservatives. It certainly delivers food for thought for any Brexiteers sitting on the fence between Boris and Nigel (scroll down to view).

In contrast, the Conservatives video runs for just over ten minutes (much longer than optimum).

Note: the Brexit Party have since changed their homepage video but you can still watch the discussed video below

Website winners: Green Party with Brexit Party

I believe that both the Brexit Party and Green Party recognised the importance of delivering a website that spoke to their core audiences. It’s really important to ensure that you design your marketing around how your customers ‘buy’ rather than how you think it should look. The Brexit Party has lost some shine by drumming down our throats about joining or donating (and possibly far too many images of Nigel Farage!) but despite that their sites are much stronger than the opposition.

The Green website wins for me. It’s clean, crisp, communicates with Brevity; getting to the point will be a winner with their younger audience and those that want an honest and direct approach to politics.

The piece de resistance: where’s the manifesto?

To keep the attention of your audience and ensure they don’t leave your website, you need to ensure they can find the essentials within a few clicks.

Brexit Party confused the matter as they’ve rebranded their manifesto The Contract with the People.

Lib Dems and UKIP ensured the search was easy but complicated matters by having endless pages for each topic.

Number of clicks from home page to open manifesto

Liberal Democrats and UKIP websites were both let down as although the number of clicks to the manifesto page was only two, when you arrived you had to click to multiple pages to view the entire document.

  • Conservatives: where is it? Oh! It really isn’t there. When this blog was written the Conservatives had yet to launch their manifesto. Bit late to the table Boris! We’ve added the link now.
  • Brexit Party: couldn’t find it. But during the research for this blog I came across a video that enlightened me that the Brevity Party don’t have a manifesto. They’ve rebranded it A Contract with the People. From a marketing perspective people like familiarity of words and you know what, whatever you call it it’s still a manifesto.
  • Labour: easily found on the website, but Labour has added an additional landing page (to collect email addresses) so they come in at 3 clicks. Also, it’s a massive 107 pages long! Get comfy for this read.
  • Green Party: clearly available on first page. Clear and crisp home page. Bite sized chunks of information that get straight to the point.
  • Liberal Democrats: home page and very clear. But… once you ‘click’ the clicks go mad! There’s no downloadable PDF just endless ‘pages to visit’ OK. Once I scrolled right down the page, lurking at the bottom, you can download it. Audible version also available but don’t get too excited – it’s in bot speak. Haven’t they heard of podcast technology so they could have just streamed from their website?
  • UKIP: home page, but like Liberal Democrats you’ll be clicking away to read it all. Once you click into one, you have the ability to download the entire manifesto… but it’s hidden. At 21 pages, it’s bite-sized compared to others and offers bulleted points which make for easier reading. However, it’s a very dull and boring document – no imagery – so that makes it more difficult to digest.

Manifesto winner: Green Party’s easy to read manifesto, showing that politics doesn’t have to be pompous

How could the political parties have done better with their marketing?

Here’s where they went wrong and how they could improve:

  • Like many businesses, some of the political parties have entered gung-ho into their election campaign. If they had spent more time on understanding who their voters are by developing personas for their typical voters (or using their personas to develop their campaigns) as well as analysing the process their persona would take to decide on how to ultimately vote (the customer journey) their marketing or at least their websites could have been more compelling.
  • I think it’s starkly evident that many of the parties have not embraced customer journey mapping which is highly concerning. If you don’t understand how your customers vote then how are you going to provide a service that works for them?
  • Around 10% of the UK population have dyslexia and apart from the Green Party, every manifesto is dominated by words, words and more words. 1 in 6 adults also have the reading ability of an 11-year old. The Lib Dems tried to develop an audible version of their manifesto which is terrible. Bot voice, say no more.
  • Young voters and high D personalities (extroverted, outgoing, direct, decisive, driven and demanding) also don’t like reading detail – they will get bored and switch off. The Greens were the only party to identify the need for an easy read manifesto (Lib Dems version said ‘coming soon’). Again, a real indication that parties really don’t understand their audiences.
  • Coming back to customer journey, websites should emulate how customers act/buy. But all of the websites seemed to be more about getting the public to donate, sign-up, join. They have developed their websites around what they want rather than what their ‘customers’ want.
  • No use of podcasts on websites. Lib Dems are the only party to offer (that I could find) an audible version, albeit a little clunky. This could have been an easy to listen to podcast available from within the site or linked to a streaming mechanism.
  • The Green Party’s ‘easy read’ manifesto doesn’t use the best design in the world, but it’s by far the easiest read and ensures you understand. The images are naff but out of all of the manifestos it got the most from this issue. It’s a shame that whoever uploaded failed to set this as opening in a new window because I lost the main website after clicking through.
  • Familiarity is key. Although the Brexit Party’s rebranding of their manifesto makes sense when explained, you don’t know what you don’t know. Will the average voter who goes to their website know that fact? Without this knowledge their manifesto is hidden.

Download all party manifestos

Crunch time! Your vote  

If I was going to base my decision purely on the quality of marketing, then I would vote either Green Party or Brexit Party. But I’m going to use the following to make my mind up.

  • Start with identifying what’s important to you – whether that’s remaining or leaving, improvements to NHS, education or tacking climate change. Pick your top three issues to whittle down your choice of parties.
  • If you’re still none the wiser, read each party manifesto (we’ve got all the links below and some useful videos!). Make a list of the things that you like and don’t like about each party and how their policies could affect you, your loved ones and your community.
  • Read-up about your local MPs – it’s important that you have confidence in who is going to be managing things in your town rather than just looking at this at a national level.
  • If you have made your mind up, perhaps encourage those you know about the importance of voting, sharing this post from BBC.

And finally… outtakes (don’t miss out)! Have you made your mind up?

Making your mind up in this election may be complex. I’m nearly there with my decision and this full-day research project to develop this blog has helped.

In my research for this blog, I came across this video from the 2010 election. Whilst it might not help you make your mind up, it will make you smile (or perhaps cringe). Featuring appearances from Nigel Farage, Alistair Campbell, Ann Widdecome, Ann Diamond, Buck’s Fizz and others – it’s a music video like no other.

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