Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Why Remain lost (more evidence of bad marketing)


Politico has done a long interview - really a cobbling together of three interviews - with Craig Oliver who, we're told, ran the 'Stronger In' campaign having previously between the PM's communications guru. Oliver's background is as a TV producer - reports tell us a very good TV producer - which, unless my education is wrong, isn't a professional marketing role. And, it's true that while Oliver did some good (well sort of) stuff getting the then PM on the telly this is a long way removed from running a comprehensive marketing campaign - which is what Remain needed.

How completely separated Oliver is from any understanding of marketing is shown in this paragraph:

That week, one of Oliver’s trump cards had flopped. A senior MP, Sarah Wollaston, had defected from the Leave camp because of its dubious claim that leaving the EU would save £350 million a week that could be spent on the NHS. He had given the story to the Times, thinking it would lead their front page, but instead they buried it and splashed on a wealthy Tory donor endorsing Brexit (even though the Times ultimately endorsed Remain).

So someone who nobody outside Oliver's bubble knew existed 'defecting' was a 'trump card'? As if Mrs Smith on Branksholme estate in Hull knew or cared. If Oliver had been running a decent campaign, he'd have known what the problem was, known why Remain weren't getting traction with undecided voters (let alone shifting wobbly Leave voters). The Politico piece sets out how wrong:

Remainers came across as “too mean,” an adviser to the Leave campaign told me later. The clips just played to Leave’s argument that Remain was trying to keep voters scared.

The core of Oliver's campaign - a media war - wasn't working and all people like Oliver and Will Straw (another marketing know-nothing who ran Stronger In) could do was what they knew: more media, more attacks, more clips on the evening news.

It's clear from the interview that Oliver isn't about to admit to error and is writing a book - presumably 80,000 words of self-justification over the disaster of the campaign to remain in the EU.

When people look at the Leave campaign they focus on the divisions (Vote Leave, Leave.EU, Grassroots Out) and the clunky media campaign filled with faux pas and dominated by defensiveness over a factual error they'd committed to at the start of the campaign - the £350m claim. But Leave got something else right - it got its message through to two important targets: non- or occasional voters, and voters who hadn't decided.

What we see from Oliver is complacency and a failure to realise that referendum campaigns are not like general elections. The latter are driven as much by personality - could you see Ed Miliband waving in front of Downing Street - as by policy. Referendums aren't, they're driven by policy and what people see as policy - by trying to turn the campaign into an attack on Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, Craig Oliver and his team completely misread how people respond when asked a policy question.

In the end there were lots of reasons for Remain throwing away its advantage but it seems to me that the biggest reason was that the campaign not only lacked a marketing strategy worth the name but was led by people who wouldn't recognise marketing if it danced before them in a tutu.



Anonymous said...

Another crucial factor is about positive and negative messages.

Back in 1975, only two years after joining the EEC, that 'In' campaign could be very positive, presenting a rosy fantasy future as our membership would soon start to bring home the fruits of the Common Market, with cheaper food, easier travel, continental lifestyle, guaranteed peace etc. The 'Out' campaign then was stuck with only the negative messages of sovereignty loss, reduction in international power, loss of independence.

In 2016, the roles were reversed - 'Remain' was all about negative threats to jobs and exports, while 'Leave' offered positive options to recover sovereignty, control our own borders, saving the 'British way of life', local law-making etc.

People like positives and they'll vote for them every time. They did both times.

Curmudgeon said...

Sarah Wollaston defecting to Remain was an excellent reason to vote Leave :-)

Dr Evil said...

The Remain campaign was risible. The negativity was hyperbole and a lot of people saw through it and did not believe a word. They got the psychology wrong. Since when did a Briton respond well being told what to do by a member of the UK and international elite. Then Georgie boy also got his international supporters, yet more of the elite, to say how dire Brexit would be. We must remain. More bad psychology especially coming from a French woman being investigated by the courts back in France for an economic crime. Then we had threats from Wolfgang Schauble about how he would hurt us if we voted Brexit. Amazing bit of psychology behind that one. A German threatening us. That went down well. Then Junker did the same. It was nearly game over. At least Merkel kept her Remain support low key fearing she would help Bexit if she was hard on us. There were far too few negative comments from remain, including Armaggedon and WWIII. by this time we were laughing. I had made my mind to vote leave years ago. And did.