The Marketing Partners is definitely apolitical but as I have watched, as many others have in recent weeks, meteoric rise by Jeremy Corbyn from rebellious activist, seemingly confined to the backbenches for eternity, to Leader of the Labour Party, I have had one question: How on earth did he do that?
The distance he has travelled seems even more remarkable when you consider some of his well known, and much-slated-of-late, views, as well as the associations he has held in the past. How ironic is it then, that now as Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, he has privileged access to power, influence and state secrets?
There is much talk in the media of divides, compromise and coups within the PLP but if you read Daniel Finkelstein’s opinion piece of 30th September (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article4571387.ece) then Jeremy Corbyn could well be closer to No.10 then you might think:
“It’s possible to tell a story of how Mr Corbyn might fall. But the chances of him going are dwarfed by the chances he will stay. The moderates have to face the fact that it is overwhelmingly likely that in 2020 if they recommend voting Labour they will be recommending putting Jeremy Corbyn in No 10”
7 lessons we can learn from Jeremy Corbyn
Returning to the question of ‘what can Marketeers learn from Jeremy Corbyn?’, I think there are a few lessons that are applicable to brand and marketing strategies everywhere:
- Jeremy Corbyn stands for something – Mr Corbyn has spent a lifetime rebelling, being different and frankly being the odd one out in the Labour party, yet people know exactly what he stands for. Believe him or not, praise him or ridicule him, he has an absolutely clear identity. There is an African proverb that says ‘stand for something or fall for everything’.
- He is distinctive – Many believe that politics have become bland and generic, with politicians vying for similar centrist policies – a cautious playing field where arguments and policies are honed by focus groups, leaked to the media to test their waters in advance, and then tracked by opinion polls. The resulting perception is that there is little to differentiate the main political parties.
Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, oozes difference – from the views he holds, the organisations he supports even to clothes he wears.
- He is single-minded in his communication – when campaigning, Jeremy travelled the Country approaching debates with the same clear, distinct message time and time again – he and his team were absolutely unwavering in their message. In my opinion they gave us a masterclass in single-minded communication.
- What he says is meaningful – After years of perceived blandness, as people watched his campaigning, they saw a man not only arguing for something distinct but also providing a clear point of view. They responded positively – this ageing, rebellious activist’s words struck a chord, with many seeing purpose and significance. People associated with his message and thousands joined the party and continue to do so. He was and is driving brand advocacy.
- He got his tone right – He may not be a great orator but he is persuasive because he has passion, believes in what he says, and can point to what he has said and done on record as an MP – he is a conviction politician. He is also very clear in his opinion on how politics should run. He has values that he wants to see adopted by the political elite, and this appeals to those who have found today’s politics to be out of touch with their beliefs.
- Timing is everything – look at the context: a Labour Party that suffered significant losses at the last election; a Scottish revival on the back of anti-austerity; the near annihilation of the Liberal Democrats; and the Conservatives in power with a pretty slim majority. A confused picture. I don’t expect Jeremy Corbyn went looking for leadership, and indeed accounts suggest he was persuaded to run ‘just to have a meaningful debate’. Yet as support grew, so did his belief that he could win. We heard he would quit if elected. His support grew and so did his commitment to honouring the voters. And now he is a leader through timing and context, rather than desire and ambition.
- But is he relevant enough? Has he done his research? There is no denying that Jeremy Corbyn has done well but there is an argument that he continues to preach to the converted – his advocates, perhaps even his evangelists. If this is true (which it likely is), he may continue to have support of the grassroots but his share of the electoral vote will remain limited. This will present a false confidence in his positioning. His real challenge is to figure out how to be relevant to the nation without giving up on what has brought him this far. He needs to persuade the lost voters to come back and to do this he needs to understand them and then persuade them. He needs to build his market share through research. It might be that this particular brand of politics has a pre-determined market share ceiling that won’t deliver him to No.10, but then again maybe not. Only time will tell.
The above principles have been tried and tested by many brands in various guises over many decades. From a Marketeers perspective, it is interesting to observe that some of the World’s most successful brands (Apple, Airbnb, Virgin to name a few) have and do use them, and that other brands who have let them fall by the wayside are left struggling (Blackberry, Kodak).
You may or may not agree with these principles but I do believe they are worth reviewing in the context of your own business.