Direct Mail helps win elections

Ever since Barack Obama was savvy enough to employ the then nascent Facebook in his victorious 2008 presidential race, pundits have been quick to declare every poll since “the digital election”.

Russell Parsons

While it is true that digital marketing is increasingly being used in political campaigns, as it is in all marketing, it is still some distance away from being the dominant channel when UK politicians of any hue are trying to secure your vote.

This is proving to be the case in the London mayoral election and the race to secure the numerous council seats up for grabs. The pervasive channel extolling the virtues of Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson and their party colleagues looking to make their mark in local government is not Facebook and Twitter but a more traditional method of marketing.

For any resident of London or Greater London, indeed anyone anywhere in the UK who is being asked to cast their vote next month in the numerous polls taking place nationwide, wading through leaflets is currently an everyday occurrence.

Local polls are more “DM elections” than “Twitter elections”, still.

This is not the result of the criminally out of touch politicians failing to grasp prevailing media consumption trends. This is pragmatism borne from an acute understanding of voters likely to exercise their democratic right on polling day.

Despite considerable effort on the part of politicians and their party machines to engage with younger voters, it is still those edging past middle age that are the most likely to vote. Although no strangers to “the Twitter and Face off” (thanks mum), messages coming via those channels would demonstrate less than effective targeting.

It is among older and, dare I say it, less digitally savvy, voters that this election will be won and lost, as it has been in the past, and as it will continue to be for the foreseeable future, bar a sudden surge in youth engagement with mainstream politics.

The older voters participate in greater number than those under-30. It is hard enough for politics and politicians to prompt sufficient enthusiasm among young voters when the Premiership of the country is at stake, so a councillor looking to represent their ward is faced with a Herculean challenge.

The very nature of local elections calls for a street by street, door-by-door approach to campaigning. Direct mail through the door, or a direct sale on the door step is still the most effective way to engage, persuade and cajole the people who matter to vote and vote for them.

Twitter and Facebook provide a conduit for debate, ridicule and cynicism but it is direct mail that will have the most influence on the outcome of next month’s elections.