Change UK (The Independent Group): A Marketing Analysis

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Trying to understand how the world of politics works can seem like an insurmountable task. But despite what you may have heard, there IS an alternative, and if they’re to be believed, The Independent Group (or Change UK as they’re now known) are it!

Setting up a new party and getting the word out to make them electable is no easy task though. So we’ve given Change UK the full treatment from the perspective of strategy, branding and communications to understand how they’re putting themselves across through their marketing.

Strategy

Target Demographic

Aiming to draw in people from both the left and right of the political spectrum, Change UK has its work cut out as it tries to become all things to all people, as evidenced by this quote from key member Chuka Umunna in an interview with GQ in April 2019:

"One of the reasons I think TIG will succeed is because you have people from different political traditions and if we are capable of reaching a consensus on policy, we can definitely come up with an agenda that can unite our country."

The central idea here is compromise, which is an interesting proposition given that it states from the outset that those joining won’t be happy with 100% of the decisions taken by the party. As a result, the language used on the Change UK site clearly targets those disillusioned with their own party but steadfast in their refusal to change political ideology entirely.

A poll recently conducted by YouGov shows that Change UK could stand to draw a significant number of voters were an election to be held soon; enough in fact to outstrip the Lib Dems.

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These results - collected on the day after the party was launched - may be different now, but it is still worth noting how the most significant change is in the numbers the party has pushed into the “Don’t Know” category. The very fact that Change UK’s emergence has caused many people to rethink their vote will please them to no end, as these people should be seen as votes ready to be snapped up.

Rating: 4/5

Messaging

The messaging generally highlights the faults of the present political system, before promising that things could be different. Though a ‘Statement of Independence’ is included on the site, a clear party manifesto would help better determine the exact direction Change UK intends taking, as at the moment it points to the flaws of its competition without offering any tangible alternatives.

Doing this can prove useful, but in this case it undermines the party’s promise to deliver change. Moreover, highlighting the flaws of competitors needs to be backed up with a positive about your own brand. The often-cited example of Avis paints a picture of its main rival Hertz as entitled and prone to laziness concerning customers, but it was quick to promote the benefits of its own brand as an alternative, even if this was tongue-in-cheek as shown in the example below:

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Rating: 2/5

Branding

Name

Naming is a notoriously difficult process, and renaming even more so. Pizza Hut famously had to row back when it announced that it was rebranding to “The Hut”. This name change came even though Yum! Brands had already made plans to roll out abridged versions of therestaurant with the heinous new name which {marketers roundly criticised.

Another famous example of a company changing names hurriedly comes from across the pond when private security contractor Blackwater changed firstly to Xe, before finally settling on Academi. Given they changed their name to disassociate themselves from the Nisour Square massacre in Iraq in which 17 innocent civilians were shot dead, the fast rebrand tends to be inspired by bad reasons more than good.

Despite the cloudy thinking around the name change, Change UK makes good sense from a marketing perspective. “Change” brings the party’s founding ethos into focus, reinforcing the idea that it was founded on the basis that people are dissatisfied with the increasingly far-flung nature of both the political right and left. Having been partially established on an anti-Brexit basis, the name also keeps the party away from suggestions that they are a single-issue party such as Ukip.

However, the name is not without its flaws. The “UK” suffix would appear to have been added to avoid confusion with other similar organisation of the same name. This strategy hasn’t proved too effective though, as the petitions website Change.org has taken exception to the rebrand, announcing that it will mount a legal challenge against Change UK.

The reasons behind the name change may be muddled, and the party leaders will no doubt hope that they are able to register the name in time for the MEP Elections in May, but overall it conveys a simple message which will appeal to many who have become disenchanted with the stagnation in UK political parties. However, only time will tell if voters view the rushed name change as a sign of a lack of direction, with its value undermined by the message the change has sent.

Rating: 4/5

Logo

Without seeing the new logo for Change UK, it’s hard to cast judgement, so for now, I’ll focus on the existing logo for The Independent Group:

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The logo is a clean and efficient stab at a first party symbol, although the desire to appeal to a large target market may be holding it back. In a 2017 seminar, Mark Riston eviscerated many of Australia’s high street brands for drifting towards the mean in terms of their branding.

While the logo may have a professional feel, it lacks an element of kinship that is present in other party insignia. Such familiarity may form over time, but for now, the logo could do with an added dynamism to make it look like more than something akin to a hedge fund.

Rating: 2/5

Advertising and Comms

PR

As PR moves go, having one of your (very few) founding members become embroiled in a racism row mere hours after a brand’s inception will take some beating in any industry. Since this debacle, Change UK has done well to get their politicians heard in the media - no mean feat at such a maniacal time for politics.

According to Ahrefs, at the time of writing there have been 9,283 pages published since the party was announced which have a domain rating over 50 which reference Change UK. To make a comparison, in the same time Labour has had 15,860 pages published within the same criteria.

Given Change UK have 11 MPs who have declared for them in contrast with Labour’s 245, it would appear that the launch has managed to create a fair splash online. It’s doubtless that much of the coverage will not be positive, but the task for Change UK in its early stages shouldn’t be to appease but rather to get its name heard.

Nevertheless, soft coverage like this will only go so far, and having a sitting MP use the term “funny tinge” on the day of the party’s launch undermined its complaints about anti-Semitism in the Labour party. The demand for MPs to re-sit local elections have also been widely ignored by the party, painting a self-serving picture of Change UK.

A firmer public stance on these issues would have gone down better with sceptics, and although they may argue booting a party member out after less than a day would have created a look of chaos, keeping her sends a message of entitlement. Similarly, an excellent PR move would have been to call local elections and stand by the MPs, as this would have helped solidify the party’s claims that people in the UK are looking for a new system.

Alas, they didn’t.

Rating: 1/5

Marcoms

The welcome email is somewhat uninspiring given that by signing up you have supposedly taken a step into the exciting world of the political unknown.

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There is no imagery to speak of, a bland header, and more crucially, no call to action or link to be seen in the main body of the email. The copy calls for supporters to share the message with friends, but this could easily be achieved seamlessly with a button or two rather than relying on people forwarding the email on themselves.

A few obligatory social icons linger in the footer along with links to the main site, but by this point, many readers will have dropped off. Designing an email template no doubt takes time, however, in the long term this will only have a positive effect by driving conversions and reinforcing the brand.

Change UK’s social accounts have accrued a sizeable following thus far, but its posts follow a fairly standard format for the political sector and most of the communication on Facebook and Twitter is merely shared content from other channels, with 83% of its Twitter comms coming in the form of retweets. While this can be an effective way of aligning with notable people and companies, at present it smacks of a lack of direction and planning.

Rating: 1.5/5

Website Design

Change UK’s site is clean and efficient, doing well to make itself simple to understand without being too thin on the ground bearing in mind how new the party is. Individual pages could benefit from more imagery to make them look a little more lively, but this is a small detail that will probably be fixed in due course.

The site works well for mobile (something that cannot be said for Labour or Ukip), although it is curious that the nav bar changes its structure for mobile to include all categories in the drop-down menu. This change solves the problem of adding additional categories found under the “More” button quite nicely, but this does beg the question of whether such a button is needed on a relatively uncluttered nav bar.

A small note is that the Change UK website bears a resemblance to that of its creator Seraph, as shown below:

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Admittedly, Change UK would hardly want a website that’s too radical given they are hoping to attract people from both sides of the political spectrum, but the site could do more than the paint-by-numbers feel it has at present. As with the main issue stemming from the email communications, a stale website hardly seems indicative of the change promised by the party.

What’s more, the focus image is far too large given that half of it merely shows a group of photographers in the act of photographing the party’s members. The first job would be to lose this and give greater prominence to the logo. The CTAs also fall below the fold on smaller screens owing to this photo, so decreasing its size would help in this regard as well. Finally, given that there were so many photographers present, do you not think that at least one of them might have captured a slightly less grainy image?

Rating: 2.5/5

SEO

Although it’s a bit harsh to comment on the SEO activity so soon after launching, the site has already amassed a domain authority of 45 according to Moz. The aforementioned Change.org has a domain authority of 90, with only one other page in the top ten having a DA below 85.

Intent will be a crucial point of consideration in this regard, as searches around the keyword “change” also related to politics are pretty low. Answering some of the key questions on politics in a FAQ-style area could be a good way to get people onto the site and a meaningful way of explaining their political position.

From an onsite perspective, there is decent use of H1 and H2 tags, but the metadata is lazy and given the site has under 60 pages, this is something that should be resolved sooner rather than later.

Rating: 3/5

In Summary

Change UK is still in nappies in political terms, and a manifesto will help focus much of its marketing activity moving forward. In general, much of its work is solid while unspectacular, reflective of the fact that it formed in a rush necessitated by its members’ collective desire to form before a decisive Brexit vote. Once the dust has settled, it will be fascinating to see how the party attempts to carve a niche in the UK’s political landscape.

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