11th February 2015

Why Labour’s latest marketing stunt won’t leave them in the pink

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According to a poll for BBC Radio 4’s programme, Women’s Hour, a disproportionate number of women remain undecided about which way they’re going to vote in May’s general election – 35% compared with 25% of men.

I’m not sure, in the grand scheme of a general election, 3 months out that it’s that hugely disproportionate, but it’s enough to get Labour’s creative juices flowing. Although, when it comes to thinking about their intended audience, it seems Labour’s creative minds are flowing in the opposite direction; or have even got lost at the first junction.

The plan is to tour 70 of the country’s constituencies with a bus. Not just any old bus though.

Because we’re talking to women, here, right …

In fact, woman to woman.

Labour's Pink Bus
Photo: The Labour Party

That bus has got to stop women in their tracks. Look up from their knitting. Put that dishcloth on hold. And throw that baby down.

And the only thing that’s gonna do that is … pink.

No wait, not just pink … but PINK.

Bright, in-your-face wooomaan PINK.

Now anyone who knows Creode, knows we’re a marketing agency that loves pink. Our own brand is awash with the stuff and it’s not just any old pink, it’s 100% magenta, with no added impurities.

Shocking pink, some might say.

But not half as shocking in the 21st Century as expecting to seriously market pink to women who are serious about where to put their crosses, come May 7th.

Harriet Harman, Labour’s Deputy Leader has defended the choice of colour by saying it’s important to ensure the bus is conspicuous. Well, there won’t be much more conspicuous than thousands of aggrieved ladies (and no, doubt, many men) taking to social media and tearing a strip off labour for various reasons, including being hackneyed, patronising and insulting.

Putting the marketing of Labour’s women-friendly policies to one side, and looking at it from a creative point of view, the party has failed to see past the obvious. Whilst Harriet explained that they did discuss different colour options; red would have looked like all other Labour vehicles; a darker red would have looked like Pret a Manger–there’s a whole world of colour out there that when it comes to a great big bus, would create stand-out. Not to mention design. Why not think beyond one solid wash of colour?

And as if that’s not sending out the wrong message, Lucy Powell, a Labour election co-ordinator, further eroded the whole proposition, saying the party was taking its message to female voters because they wanted to “have a conversation about the kitchen table, and around the kitchen table” rather than having an “economy around that just reaches the boardroom table”.

Ah, the kitchen … because that’s where you lot always are, right? I didn’t notice because you must have been behind that massive pile of dishes. But why just be chained to the kitchen sink, Lucy? Why not keep it to a cosy chat in the cleaning cupboard? Or have it out at the hairdressers? After all, you’re not ALWAYS cooking us menfolk our evening meals.

And, at the end of the day, it wouldn’t make your proposition any more condescending, surely?

And, why the hell not have a conversation with women around the boardroom table, anyway? Labour not only seem to have forgotten how to speak to their audience, their prospects and indeed, their potential customers or clients if you like, but they also seem to have forgotten that the number of women sitting on the board of FTSE 100 companies is on the rise. According to the Professional Boards Forum’s report, women made up 19% of FTSE 100 directors in 2013, up from 17.4% in May the previous year and 12.5% from three years ago. The target for this year is 25%. And since 2013, 25% of new FTSE 100 board appointments have been women.

So whilst it’s not perfect yet, the head count for women is heading in the right direction. And as of 2013, there were only six all-male boards in the UK’s index of top companies.

That doesn’t even take into account the thousands of women up and down the country, who are not only sitting round their own board tables, but have also set up their own companies.

Not only that, but as a rough finger in the air, I’d say around 80% of the Marketing Departments of our clients here at Creode are headed up by women.

So when you compare those percentages with the fairly minor ten percent discrepancy in undecided male/female voters mentioned at the top of this post, it does seem odd that Labour has decided on this particular marketing strategy.

And let’s not forget, that this is all about marketing, so here’s a few guidelines that Labour could do better to remember when speaking to potential customers:

  • Don’t treat your audience with a broad brush; get personal.
  • Don’t lazily think issues are gender specific; it’s not just mums who are concerned about childcare, it’s dads too.
  • Do study the data and check facts; more women are becoming the breadwinners.
  • From those facts, base your campaign on insight; could we speak to women more on their level, rather than leading with an outdated lowest common denominator?

Do that in marketing and maybe you won’t have to wait ages for your next member, customer or client–you may find two or even three turning up at once.