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.