Why David Cameron is losing the lead for the Conservatives

I don’t want this article to be particularly political, but want to review the presentation By David Cameron of the Conservative party from a branding and advertising perspective.

Branding is about getting your message across clearly, consistently and most importantly, honestly. It’s an expression I use quite a lot, but the more you advertise a bad product, the faster it will fail. Now we are seeing much more of David Cameron and his policies, it seems that voters don’t quite like what they are seeing.

David Cameron had a very privileged upbringing, there’s no doubt about that and in theory that shouldn’t stop him from understanding the public. It’s his pretence of being ‘down there with the kids’ and struggling like the rest of us that is positioning him as something he isn’t and may be the reason that he has thrown away a huge lead in the polls.

The recent poster campaign for the Tories, presented a picture of David Cameron that was so far removed from the true picture, that it was ridiculed from day one. It was all things airbrushing, that at first, I thought it had to be a spoof.

David Cameron, Year for Change campaign poster - in al its terrible airbrushed glory
David Cameron, Year for Change campaign poster - in al its terrible airbrushed glory

Here’s the ‘original’, showing a ludicrously airbrushed image of him. He is just presented as too perfect to be ‘one of the people’ quite why he needs the treatment of a Vogue model (albeit done very badly) is beyond me and prompted a response from one of my design peers with a brilliant open forum for people to be able to design their own version of the poster.

David Cameron - grew up on an estate
David Cameron - grew up on an estate

I just love this particular one, which is so clunkily comped that it makes a mockery of the ‘original’ image and the message of truth and honesty that it was trying to portray.

If the Tories go on to throw away their lead in the final vote and we end up with a hung Parliament or a Labour victory, this poster campaign will have to take some part of the blame.

In the same way, in 1979, the very famous ‘Labour isn’t working’ poster was credited with having a huge part in winning the General Election for the Tories.

Labour isn't working poster for the Conservatives from the 1979 general election
Labour isn't working poster for the Conservatives from the 1979 general election

Who says advertising doesn’t have an impact?

8 thoughts on “Why David Cameron is losing the lead for the Conservatives

  1. I found it interesting on the news last night, they mentioned how David Cameron has had a facebook account created for him (as has lots of the other politicians trying to follow the example of Obama), but he doesn’t actually make any input on it him self!
    It’s the whole point of social media that it has to be genuine and personal? At least to some extend?
    Like you say, isn’t he once again pretending to be “down there with the kids” but actually completely missing the point?

    1. That’s a really good point. Social media can be incredibly powerful, but as we know, it can also sniff out the truth very quickly. I think david Cameron on Facebook is about as credible as me dancing at a wedding!

  2. Some great points there John (as ever!). I think it is an interesting issue. These ‘airbrush’ posters do expose what a lot of people fear – that these guys just aren’t genuine and are ‘pretending’! We all ‘question’ a lot more now and therefore ‘see through’ the hype’.

    It’s quite interesting that the politicians are trying to ‘adopt’ the ‘social media’ thing, but are struggling to make it work. The problem is that they all copme across as ‘same as’.

    Their challenge is to differentiate themselves (‘dramatically differentiate’ themselves?) and ‘demonstrate that!

    I had a bizarre experience recently – I watched David Cameron’s performance at TED last month – see link here

    and was quite impressed (scarilly)!!!

    Maybe these politicians should be using new technology and ‘modern’ promotional methods to reinforce their difference and personality – i.e. do the stuff they are good at, and let people see them doing it.

    1. It feels to me like they are trying to create a David Cameron ‘brand’ by using tons and tons of market research to find out what offends people the least. This goes completely against your theory of creating things that are ‘clear and demonstrably different’ as it only ever creates things that re clear and demonstrably safe.

      This hunting around in the middle ground is, i’m sure, the reason that politics is blanding itself out of existence and why it is so totally unappealing to younger potential voters.

      If they came out and stood for ‘something’ rather than ‘anything’, it might not be to everyones taste, but at least we would know what was important to them.

      Love or hate Michael Foot (RIP his floppy haired old soul) at lest you knew what he stood for, what was vital and in his ‘Peacemonger‘ speech you had no doubt what you were getting if you signed up to his public values.

      1. Well, that’s really interesting what you’re saying. A couple of months ago I ‘whimped out’ of doing an article on the BNP being ‘Dramatically and Demonstrably Different’ because all the other parties were ‘same as’.
        Absolutely no way did i want to support or even condone what they stand for, but that’ s almost the point – many successful ‘brands’ provoke a reaction – positive or negative, and if there’s enough ‘positives’ (‘enough’ is in itself a very subjective word), then you’ve got ‘success’.
        The BNP ‘brand’ stands out among a ‘sea of sameness’ and that’s very scary!
        Think I’ll write to my MP!

  3. Certainly the advertising highlights a concern of the voting public – How are the Conservatives different from Labour? How is Cameron different from Blair or Brown? Exactly with your point about sameness John.

    I’m not sure it’s the positioning as “down with the kids” that is the issue, but more a case of credibility. The ad simply shows that the focus is on image, and not the true message. Why should we believe him? If we can’t believe him, why should we vote for him?

    Elections are lost, rather than won. It comes down to how bad Labour are in comparison to the Conservatives!

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