The age-old problem of govt targets

The fact that John Stones’ article “Goodbye Mr Sheen” (MW September 11) concentrates solely on the presentation of politics rather than the fundamental marketing principle of targeted communication to highlight value and benefit, illustrates the problems experienced by political parties and most businesses alike.

The common factor political parties and many businesses share is an obsession with branding and self image rather than talking to their best prospects in the best way.

They may listen to focus groups and spend small fortunes on other forms of research but they nevertheless behave as they intended to do in the first place.

In particular, both have an obsession with youth – despite the fact that older consumers have more wealth and are up to four times more likely to vote than younger demographics. The propensity to vote follows a long-established pattern of 20 per cent of 20-year-olds casting their ballot, 30 per cent of 30-year-olds, and so on. Spending ability follows similar lines.

However, what we get is New Labour – a youth brand if ever there was one – and marketers ignoring the mathematics of simple economics by preferring to target campaigns at the Generation X rather than communicating with the wealthy and the only demographic groups to be growing.

The fact that New Labour succeeded as a brand was as much to do with the need for new ideas and the failings of the opposition. That era is now over. Pop stars, artists and celebrities no longer visit Downing Street and the political issues of the forthcoming campaign will centre on concerns such as top-up fees, the health service and pensions.

The voting population and grass-roots activists have shifted the agenda, but it is unlikely that the party leaders either want to address these subjects or have the ability to do so with any great success. The will is just not there.

Attacking politicians for being untrustworthy and out of touch is one of the nation’s great pastimes. Unfortunately this is how mature consumers perceive the guardians of most brands.

Kevin Lavery

Executive creative director

Millennium

London WC2

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