The looming general election has already prompted the Conservative and
Labour parties to label each other ‘liars’ and ‘demons’, but both appear
to have forgotten to ask the voters how they feel about the country’s
main political parties and the men who lead them.
According to research carried out by advertising agency Barker &
Ralston, political consumers see the market for political parties as a
‘jungle of confusion’ and have some less-than-flattering things to say
Using a process called ‘Sensory Edge’, the agency asked a sample of 40
voters to describe their feeling about the three main political parties
according to their five senses. So, for example, respondents are asked
if the Tory Party was a smell, what would it be? Tellingly, the answer
from several respondents was ‘old farts’.
Barker & Ralston developed the system to build a sensory profile of
brands as a first step towards creating an effective marketing campaign
and have used the process on clients such as Saab and Beck’s beer.
The research indicated that voters are divided by the feeling that
change is necessary and the fear of what change will mean. Barker &
Ralston believe the current political scene bears many similarities to
the mobile phone sector of several years ago.
Using the five senses, the Conservatives conjured up images of
traditional England and stagnation, such as ‘Saville Row suits, stodgy
wealth, BBC voice, mothballs, old velvet and weak tea’, while Labour
represented change and risk (see illustration).
The Liberal Democrats were almost unquantifiable, generating images of
‘empty benches in Parliament, silence, flowers, doves’ wings and
Both the Conservative and Labour parties are playing on their opponents’
weaknesses and consumers’ fears with lines like ‘New Labour, New Danger’
and ‘Same old Tories, same old lies’. But both may need to take a more
positive stance and promote their own policies rather than attacking
others. It seems the Conservatives and Labour could benefit from using a
line similar to WCRS’s ‘The Future’s Bright. The Future’s Orange.’
Rupert Hopkins, planning director at Barker & Ralston, says consumers
are confused by the endless number of issues, such as BSE, Europe and
‘The average punter just avoids the area because they feel a lack of
confidence in making the right decision. Underpinning this is a belief
that somewhere, somehow, they are going to get ripped off. The next
election could pivot as much on how much the average voter wishes to
embrace change as on which party or party leader represents the right
answer,’ he says.