Now that the general election has finally been officially called, the campaigning methods of all the major political parties will come under increased scrutiny. This time round the use of digital marketing techniques will be used more than ever in an attempt to win over those all important floating voters.
Political eyebrows in the UK would have been raised by the success of the Obama campaign in the United States. It is widely acknowledged that Obama was ‘The First Digital President’ and the Obama campaign brilliantly utilised social media to enlist campaign participants and online donations, organising thousands of events all over the USA and raising $200m in just a few months . So what have the main political parties in this country been up to in order to try and emulate Obama’s digital marketing success?
After their defeat in the last general election, the Tories decided to take to digital marketing in a big way in an attempt to reach out to a new generation of voters. They have a dedicated in-house digital marketing team which looks after areas such as social media, online video, SEO and voter engagement. They launched a new search engine friendly website in 2008, and also launched the MyConservatives.com website which received generally good reviews. Their PPC campaign promoting the party website recently got publicity when cheekily their ad appeared top of the Google paid search for the term ‘Gordon Brown’. In addition there is the infamous ‘WebCameron’, and now even ‘WebSamCameron’ which keeps you up to date with their leader and his wife’s latest exploits and also targeted Facebook ad campaign in which they promote content from the party website.
Labour appear to be fighting back however. They have been busy building up an extensive email database, and launching an iPhone app, iCampaign, which allows supporters to find local campaign events quickly and easily. They have also set up a series of issues websites such as anti foxhunting website BackTheBan, and SaveOurSureStart in which they highlight the Tory plan to scrap the Sure Start children’s centres. Their best recent result, however, was the MyDavidCameron.com site which mocks the Tory poster campaign featuring David Cameron. Although the site was started by Labour supporting bloggers rather than the party itself, the Labour Party was quick to hijack it and it featured prominently on their party website.
The Lib Dems have also been busy trying to go viral with an unbranded online guerrilla campaign which features a mock ‘Labservative’ candidate called ‘ Gorvid Camerown’, the message being that the Labour and Conservative parties are indistinguishable from each other and that only the Liberal Democrats offer any real alternative. There is a Labservative.com website and ‘Gorvid’ also has his own Twitter page.
How effective all this will be for each party remains to be seen. Also it will be interesting to see how important the digital marketing battle in this general election is seen to be in retrospect, whether any of the parties have emulated the success of the Obama campaign and whether we have in fact elected the first ‘Digital Prime Minister’.