I watched the 2nd televised leaders’ debate the other evening and was struck by the maturity of some of the competitive marketing campaigns conducted by the UK’s political parties.
(Please get through this rather turgid and wordy description of the state of current political debate in the UK – there is a marketing-related point to this.)
Here’s the long-hand description of the most significant ideological and tactical difference between the two main parties contesting the UK general election.
To those readers who are not familiar with the subtleties of UK politics we have an incumbent government formed by the Labour party. The majority opposition is formed by the Conservative party with the minority opposition coming from the Liberal Democrats. There are also a number of fringe political parties representing varying degrees of extreme views and specific geographic areas.
A significant difference in ideology between the Labour and Conservative positions is found in their approach to the method and timing for addressing the massive budget deficit that the UK has since borrowing to prop the economy up. The Labour government proposes to increase individual and corporation National Insurance (NI) tax payments which is a secondary taxation levied on earnings in addition to our Pay as you Earn (PAYE) income tax. The Labour government argues that this taxation is needed in order that the country can start to pay off borrowing. The Conservative opposition agrees that there is an urgent requirement to bring down the deficit BUT they believe that this money can be found by cutting fat from what they see as a bloated government.
These productivity savings, they argue, will more than equate to the money that would have been raised from the increase in NI. The labour goverment disputes that this level of saving can be achieved through productivity savings and say that services will suffer as a result. The Conservative opposition refutes this. And so we have some real differentiation between the parties’ policies..
The problem that both parties have, as I hope I’ve proved with this rather dry analysis of UK political prattling, is that the electorate at large finds this sort of debate boring, complex, difficult to break down and of little tangible importance to them. It’s just an inscrutable academic discussion between people that they’re not really sure they trust.
What has this got to do with a technology marketing blog?
The Conservative opposition has encapsulated this entire argument into a single, easy to use, easy to remember, difficult to refute and highly damaging phrase – “Jobs Tax”. The term has become the banner under which the Conservative opposition has united behind and which they use to succinctly describe the key difference between themselves and labour and the main benefit one would enjoy if one were to vote for them. All senior members of the Conservative party election team have obviously been drilled to repeat these two words ad nauseum,
They claim that Labour’s “tax on jobs” will result in companies hiring less people, laying off more people and ultimately slowing down economic recovery. As proof they have enlisted a large number of business leaders who are willing to say that if the Labour government is re-elected then jobs will be lost through this “jobs tax”.
Without betraying any political leanings whatsoever, I have to say that this is a well executed positioning campaign and a wonderful example of competitive depositioning. It takes the power of a “competitor’s” feature, uses the energy with which they promote this in the market and turns it against the competitor and to their own advantage. Every time that the Labour government “advertise” their NI policy, large swathes of the electorate deposition this in their minds as a “jobs tax” which they associate as being a bad thing.
What effect this will have on the result I do not know but I have to applaud the spin doctors (not something I am given to doing lightly) behind such a nifty piece of competitive marketing.