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Mis-Communicator of the Week: Baroness Warsi

20th March 2014


Whether it is an established big brand name, a new entrant challenging the status quo in an existing market, or a political party preparing for an election campaign the rules are the same. Establish who you are in the eyes of your target audience. Offer and explain what the choice is to that audience. Then set the terms of the debate so you are in control. 

In a column earlier this year I explained the importance of controlling the dialogue in political campaigns. For consumer brands a case study of note is that of Coca-Cola. This iconic brand surrendered control of their own identity (and suffered damage in the Cola war versus Pepsi) when deciding to launch a new recipe for Coke in 1985. It was brand vandalism that undermined Coca-Cola as “the real thing” in consumer’s eyes and only a swift U-turn from Coca-Cola salvaged the situation. 

In politics, a common attack on those in power is that they are "out of touch” and remote from ordinary people. In British politics the Labour Party has pushed this line hard by targeting the Prime Minister and others around him due to their attendance at elite public schools, most notably Eton.    

Recent polling suggests that this attack has had some success with David Cameron seen by voters as “posh” and “out of touch”. Therefore you would expect Conservative allies of the Prime Minister to distance themselves from this line of attack. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister one of his ministers appeared on ITV’s political programme ‘The Agenda’ pictured with a mocked-up newspaper front page attacking David Cameron which she had designed.

The mock-up by Baroness Warsi featured David Cameron alongside other prominent Conservative figures as part of an Eton Mess dessert. Warsi, who smiled broadly as she presented the artwork, has allowed Labour to renew their sniping and even open a new line of attack regarding the dissent in Conservative ranks. 

By appearing on television in this way Warsi has given oxygen to Conservative opponents in a way that helps them to define who the Conservatives are. It may be that the economy will continue to grow strongly which, along with other issues, will persuade voters that David Cameron and the Conservatives are deserving of their vote.

Whatever happens, the next election is likely to be close so any doubt in people’s minds that David Cameron and those around him are on the side of ordinary voters will be damaging to Conservative hopes. Baroness Warsi has made persuading voters that much harder with her ill-thought out intervention which is why she is my Mis-Communicator of the Week. 

Communicator of the Week is written by Ed Staite.



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