Lessons for B2B Marketing from Jeremy Corbyn!

jeremy corbyn

Whatever your political views you have to admit that the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the UK Labour Party leadership was an amazing achievement. At the start of the process he had to be persuaded to join the race and only just got enough nominations to appear on the ballot paper at literally the last minute. From rank outsider to winning the election on a landslide with nearly 60% of the vote, and his nearest rivals on less than 20% each, it sounds like a triumph all Marketers would envy. So how did he do it?

Now I have no internal knowledge of the strategies in the Corbyn camp, or even if there were any glossy corporate-like ‘Marketing’ strategies as such (I suspect not), but I do have personal views on some of the reasons for his success. In fact, some of those reasons I would also use to explain how, at totally the opposite end of the political spectrum, Nigel Farage somehow managed to get votes for the UKIP party in recent elections.

Understand your ‘buyer’ and their pains

Having been a back-bench constituency MP for over 30 years Jeremy Corbyn well understood his fellow party members’ feelings following the General Election defeat in May, and also what troubles the wider electorate. The other candidates’ views were probably gained mainly from ‘focus groups’ and polls. People actually do not believe that their voices are heard or their concerns valued as important – hence the very low turnouts at elections in general. The core Labour Party membership felt that the last general election was lost because Labour tried to copy Conservative Policies in a ‘Tory Lite’ manner, rather than sticking proudly to Labour traditions of socialism. Corbyn campaigned on those traditional values without concern for the reaction of the right-wing press. His view appeared to be “This is what the members believe we need to do, and I believe it – so let’s go with it”. The other candidates in the leadership race, to a greater or lesser extent, were viewed as carrying on along the ‘Tory Lite’ path. They appeared to be saying “Let’s look at why the Conservatives won at the general election and assume they got it right and copy their approach”.

This illustrates the need to really get in tune with your target buyers needs and pains, not what you think they should be or what your competitors may say they are – you may be surprised.

It’s not about being slick, it’s about being genuine

Rightly or wrongly, party members and the population at large see modern political leaders as all ‘style over substance’. The slick party machines, with choreographed ‘on message’ presentation come across to a populace well experienced in seeing through the glossy advertising of large corporates as just that – adverts not to be believed or trusted. Corbyn and his team are often accused of being ‘naive’ or ‘non-professional’ because in interviews some individuals will answer questions slightly differently, and even appear to hold different views. I think people in general believe this to be a sign of genuine opinion rather than the scripted approach which leads them to not trust the message. His presentation style is laid-back, his suit not as smart as a businessman’s, but Corbyn comes across as truly believing in what he says, rather than saying the right thing to win.

Translating this to the business world I am drawn to examples such as Elon Musk with Tesla Motors and Martin Kelly at INNOVO. Musk has doggedly pursued the cause of sustainably powered motoring at great personal cost and Kelly has made great efforts to create an enterprise that has at its core the financial support for good causes as well as being a profitable business. You need to truly believe in your proposition to be genuine and then you need to drive that understanding and belief in those around you rather than just giving them a script to read.

You can’t just steal your enemy’s stories

The tactic of taking what appeared to be winning messages, such as around ‘austerity’ and immigration, from their Conservative Party competitors, served to reduce the chances of the other candidates in the Labour leadership race rather than improve them. Corbyn trusted in his understanding of the party membership and their desires to craft his messages.

It is always tempting to try an emulate what appears to be successful messaging for your competition, but that success will undoubtedly be due to other factors, such as channel, existing customers, product quality and service capability rather than just the messages themselves. That is what all the other UK political parties got wrong in their approach to combating the rise of UKIP – they tried to copy the tough line on immigration messaging rather than seeing that UKIP’s success was more down to the apparent ‘genuine’ bloke approach of Nigel Farage than what he was actually saying.

There is a danger in B2B Marketing that we focus too much on building glossier and glossier message delivery mechanisms rather than on what matters – understanding our buyers and talking genuinely to them about how we address their pains and needs. With networks such as INNOVO suppliers do not even have to bombard huge numbers of potential buyers with ever-more extravagant propositions to try and get attention – they just need to be there when a buyer wishes to purchase what they have to offer. Could we see the development of an almost ‘non-marketing’ Marketing movement over the coming years?

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