Marketing and the council elections

Even those who don’t follow politics closely will have stuggled to avoid the media coverage of this week’s council elections and the phenomenal growth in share of the vote for UKIP. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to get all political on this blog, but in the aftermath of the election results I’ve heard a few phrases (many of which I’ve heard more than a few times after election results) and it struck me that I’ve heard some of them used in a business and marketing context too:
“We need to learn the lessons”
Well, when what we expected to happen didn’t happen, then clearly we got something wrong and it would be wise to work out what it was and learn from it. Of course, sometimes it isn’t that what we expected to happen didn’t occur, it’s more that what happened isn’t what we hoped for. Perhaps deep down what actually happened was excatly what our heads told us – we just didn’t want to listen. Similarly, if we set out to ‘learn the lessons’, then we had better have an open mind to what we are going to see, feel and hear – it might not be pleasant!
“they are full of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”
The political arena does seem to like knocking the competition, perhaps because our politcal system is essentially adversarial. There are of course some successful examples, one of the most notable probably the ‘Labour isn’t working’ Saatchi and Saatchi Conservative campaign that swept Mrs Thatcher to power in 1979. However, there are plenty of examples where words have come back to bite the speaker too. Personally, in business I’m not a fan of attacking the competition – at best we create demand for alternatives and in most markets there are plenty in addition to our own brand. If we’ve won or paid for the opportunity to say something to potential customers, I would much rather talk to them about my brand than my competitor’s.
“We didn’t get our message across”
Otherwise known as “it’s the customer’s fault”. If only they really understood how good my product or service is or if they had thought properly before they made their decision, we would be market leader. Well, I think it’s well established that people buy (or vote) for their own reasons, not for ours. If we don’t understand them and their reasons and/or can’t position our offering in a way that is relevant to them and their situation, then perhaps it’s more to do with us than them?
“It’s a protest vote”
And of course it might be. But when does a protest become a movement? When does an occasional act of disloyalty to our brand become a lost customer? How many months does a customer have to go without buying from us to become someone else’s loyal customer? Can we even spot changes in individual customers’ behaviours in the mass of sales data?
As the main parties (all four of them) continue to reflect on Thursday’s results, are we reflecting on our business results? If we took our last sales period as a customer vote – what would we conclude?