There’s a great marketing aphorism about two ice cream sellers dividing up how they sell their wares to a beach. How to get 50% each. They could build their stalls next to each other and one gets the share of the left hand side of the beach and one goes to the right. It’s sociable and they can chat to each other. Or they could build their stalls at either end of the beach and it’s still the same result, just a little bit more lonely.
That, basically, is the current state of British politics. The nineties and early 21st century saw a nice warm consensus in the middle and now the two parties have gone to the other ends of the beach with the harder left of Corbyn and the Brexiters and UKIP swinging to the right.
So what if you’re an ice cream seller who spots an opportunity for those folk who don’t want to make that metaphorical journey to the far sides of the beach? You’re in with a good chance of picking up that audience. If you’re clear what flavour you’re selling. If you’re competitive on pricing. If you make yourself look appealing, distinct. If people know who you are. If, basically, people know what you’re selling.
So say hello to Change UK The Independent Group. CUKTIG? CHUKTIG? And probably wave goodbye too. By the end of the summer, there will be a good chance their particular ice cream stand will be boarded up, shut and the owners arguing with each other about what went wrong.
We do a lot of branding here and it pains us to see their launch. This is a real opportunity to redefine politics, own a new position and they don’t. If you’re launching a brand, be clear about who you are and what you stand for. From the get go, it’s not happened. There’s the name for starters. Change UK is bold in its ambition, if a little bland. It’s also pretty much the same as Change.org UK. Try and google the new party and you’re more likely to end up in places already owned by the other lot.
Then it’s watered down further with The Independent Group. That’s what they were called for the first few minutes of their existence. It’s as if Snickers still carries equal weighting Marathon branding on their wrapper. So there’s a search problem. If potential customers can’t even find your stall, let alone know what you’re called, you’re in trouble. And that comes before they’ve seen your menu.
Sometimes you have to play the game and sometimes, you don’t. Some conventions still apply, no matter how much you want to change. Conservatives, blue. Labour, red. Green, erm green. Change UK The Independent Group? Black and white. Or is it yellow, or light green, or sort of orangey or pink-ish? And the four lines? No idea what that means, and no explanation either. Luckily, they aren’t Mrs May’s red lines. I haven’t yet dared to ask the designers here about how they feel about the five words spread over four lines conundrum, but as a copywriter it makes me feel a bit funny.
The name and the logo feel like design and creation by compromise. Have a new name, keep the old name. Have a logo, but nothing too offensive and controversial. That’s the danger of driving down the middle of the road and trying to keep the wheels in both lanes. There’s nothing distinct here.
But clarity could be regained if they were clear about what they offer. And this is the tricky one by its very nature for CUKTIG. They’ve been formed in opposition to what currently exists. They are defining themselves by the competition. There’s no positive positioning. They need absolute clarity about what they do stand for, not what they don’t. What are they selling? They’re leading on being the anti-Brexit party. That’s a short term strategy. They’re standing as a people’s party, giving what the people want, whatever that is after the upcoming EU elections. To push this tortuous metaphor even further, they have one flavour on offer and at the moment it’s vanilla.
Similarly who’s selling it? What are the staff behind the counter like? There’s a lack of personality and tone of voice here. Who’s leading them? Like me, you may assume it’s Chuka Umunna. It might be Heidi Allen, that’s her title, after all, but it’s not clear. And personality plays a big role in UK politics, Boris Johnson is proof of that it can trump thought out coherent policies alone. A good waiter will make you buy anything, regardless of what it tastes like.
It feels like an opportunity lost. A chance for a game changer in British politics. Hopefully they can turn it around and work out their branding, messaging and strategy. Extinction Rebellion are clear and focussed. CUKTIG aren’t. Hopefully like this last weekend an initial sunny start won’t herald a dismal rainy summer for them.