“We in the Adder Party are going to fight this campaign on issues, not personalities. Because our candidate doesn’t have a personality.”
So said Edmund Blackadder of the hapless Baldrick when, in season three, he was parachuted in as a by-election candidate for the fictional rotten borough of Dunny-on-the-Wold (population: “three rather mangy cows, a dachshund named Colin and a small hen in its late 40s”).
And quite right too, you might think. Elections aren’t beauty pageants. They should be about policies, not personalities. Right?
The truth is that substance and style don’t exist in isolation. If you want your policies – or any other messages – to feel credible, they have to match your personality. And that personality needs to be attractive.
If you get this wrong, it doesn’t really matter what you say – people are unlikely to buy into your big idea.
Here at Lark, we know how important it is for your message and tone of voice (or ‘brand personality’) to work in harmony. And, so far, the 2017 election campaign has been something of a case in point.
Take the Labour Party for example. Many of the policies contained in Labour’s manifesto are actually pretty popular. More funding for schools and the NHS, an expansion of free childcare, the abolition of tuition fees and the nationalisation the railways – all funded by tax rises on the rich and predatory big business. What’s not to like?
Well, two things, it turns out. First, few people think Labour will get into power to implement these policies. Second, even if they do, many people question their competence to do so effectively.
Ultimately, brilliant ideas are pointless if enough people think you’re incompetent and doomed to fail. Labour’s tone needs to address that credibility gap – though as long as Diane Abbott keeps giving interviews on the hoof, there’s probably not much danger of that.
The Lib Dems, meanwhile, are looking to seize what they see as a golden opportunity to recapture their pre-coalition vote-share by running on an anti-Brexit ticket. Unfortunately, they’ve spent most of the campaign so far trying to put out the fire started by leader Tim Farron’s unfortunate remarks about gay marriage.
From a ‘brand personality’ perspective, you have a party calling themselves the Liberal Democrats denying a position on same-sex marriage, which is profoundly illiberal. At the same time, they’re promoting an anti-Brexit stance, which, on the face of it, seems pretty undemocratic. No wonder they’re not soaring up the polls with quite the jet-propelled celerity poor Tim might have hoped.
Speaking of Brexit, there are plenty of people in this country who are still very receptive to the idea of remaining in Europe. But it’s not just the message that counts – it’s the messenger too. Enter another familiar figure who has been honking the Remain klaxon: Tony Blair. So tainted is brand Blair in 2017 that what would otherwise be a palatable – even appealing – message is fatally undermined the moment it leaves his lips. For no other reason that that it comes from him.
Strong and… what was it?
Finally, we turn to the Tories – or, as they’ve been rebranded ‘Theresa May’s Team.’
Despite being the ones who got us into this situation, vast swathes of the country seem to think the Tories are also the best ones to get us out of the EU in one piece. Not, I’d suggest, because their mantra ‘Strong and Stable’ means very much to anyone. But because it fits them as snugly as a pair of the PM’s celebrated kitten heels.
‘Strength and stability’ (for which, read ‘Stubbornness and stolidity’) chimes so harmoniously with the public perception of Theresa May as a “bloody difficult woman”, who’ll grind a good deal out of Brussels through sheer force of attrition, that people just accept it. Even if they don’t understand it.
So, with little over two weeks to go until polling day, that’s where we stand. And no one is much surprised.
Like them or loathe them, the Tories are the only mainstream party to have successfully married their pronouncements with their public perception. Is it any coincidence that the election already seems a formality?
If you want a hand getting your brand voice and personality on the same page, drop us a line. We’d be happy to help.
Update: since the time of writing, the Tories have been forced into a rather embarrassing U-Turn on social care policies which, it seems, synched a little too well with another facet of their party persona – one which has previously led to Prime Minister herself to describe them as ‘the Nasty Party.’ Perhaps their poll lead isn’t as ‘Strong and Stable’ as all that…