Election Success Reminds That Focus Is Key, Not 'Spray And Pray'

There was a fascinating article in The Telegraph straight after David Cameron's victory in the 2015 election which is being widely shared on social media again. It's required reading for anyone working in the digital teams of any of the political parties running in June's snap election, but it's also a great insight for marketers. 

Even if it may feel like it's preaching to the converted among experienced digital marketers, the words of wisdom from the Conservatives' winning digital team are simple but demonstrably very successful. Industry insiders can probably skip the part about the need to take digital seriously because this is already a given. It's worth noting, however, that the team writing about their success points out that although 2010 was considered the first digital media election, 2015 was where it actually was used well enough to make a difference.

For non-Brits, here's a quick reminder. The importance of the 2015 election was that nobody gave David Cameron much of a chance. As leader of a coalition government, with the Liberal Democrats, talk was mostly centred around a continuation of that coalition. Few expected a Conservative majority, and the party's success was at least partially attributed to their better use of digital.

So what were those lessons? The big mistake that the Tory team says Labour made was a lack of focus, focussing on "spraying and praying" their message to all and sundry wherever they may be. The Tory team avoided this and looked at its core audience -- the key people it felt could swing it for them and advertised where they were most likely to be receptive. 

It wasn't all about display, however. Email played a major role in energising supporters, and social was important too. The Tory team mentions that social influencers were key. The party devised graphs and charts that supported their key messages, which were not only generally released through their accounts but also those of key influencers who had been identified as supporting the message and having good reach in social. 

Arguably the most astute finding among the Tory's digital team is that it's not always about the numbers. In fact, the most cutting remark of all in the article is that while Labour was celebrating four million conversations, the winning Tory team were convinced that it's better to have more meaningful conversations, with the right message and with the right people. Instead of counting conversations, they quip, they were building Facebook and YouTube campaigns that focussed on key messages for highly defined audiences.

Sound familiar? It should do. Don't know about you but this sounds like the type of conversation every marketing team has had to have, particularly around the importance of social and how it should best be measured. From giving one another 'high fives' over shares and likes, digital marketing has had to move to a results-driven method of justifying spend and effort. 

If you ever need reminding, just consider how Labour must have felt about the four million "conversations" it had started. Then contrast that with the result. If you want to influence behaviour, then focussing the right message on the right people is -- and always will be -- a far better alternative to the apparent temporary "wins" of spraying and praying. 

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