iCanvassing

With the upcoming general election scheduled for 6th May, political parties are doing all they can to reach as many potential voters as possible in an attempt to gain power. With Brown, Cameron and Clegg all currently in the process of knocking on doors up and down the country, the battle has certainly commenced. But, it’s not just old fashioned canvassing that is being utilised to help gain as many votes as possible. The war has spilled over into cyberspace with a number of parties releasing downloadable applications for iPhone and iPod Touch users.

But will these app’s make a difference to the overall result of the general election and do they extend and explore the individual political parties as ‘brands’?

Labour’s app, iCampaign, allows users to receive the latest news headlines from the party as well as local news and events from the users area. It also privies access to view Labour’s tweets on Twitter inside the app. The final function, yet most important, is the ability to view the party’s various policies.

Whilst being fairly basic, the app maintains Labour’s colour palette and logo to create cohesion with their other advertising and marketing efforts. Moreover, the party’s slogan, ‘A future fair for all’, is repeated throughout the applications various components and passages.

The Conservative party iPhone app has a lot more to offer visually. A short animation sequence opens the application which shows the party’s name shining through a crisp, blue sky before the words “Year for change” spring in from the side. Everything about this app ties in with the Conservative’s current marketing initiatives. The layout is more user-friendly than Labour’s and also provides connectivity with Facebook, Twitter and Youtube although this involves leaving the app and opening up the iPhone’s native mail client.

The self-titled Conservative app has two other interesting features. The first is called the ‘Swing-O-Meter’ which allows the user to see how much of a percentage swing is needed for the Conservatives to gain a majority vote and how that would translate on a map of Britain by tilting the device to the right. The built-in accelerometer detects the users movement and maps it accordingly on screen. Whilst this is an interesting and interactive idea, I found it to be fairly temperamental whilst using and of very little benefit for actually gaining information on the current situation in the polls. Overall, this feels slightly gimmicky but, it deserves credit for very literally allowing the public control over the voting system.

The second interesting feature is an option on the homepage which allows iPhone users to select and call a friend from their address book to canvass and convince them to vote for the Conservative party. After the call, the app instructs you to enter your friend’s name, address, postcode and voting intention to “help with [their] local campaigning”. From a marketing research perspective, this is an interesting concept as it will allow better information on certain areas where the Conservative vote is perhaps the weakest. Realistically, however, this may be viewed as being fairly intrusive by both the app user and the call recipient, thus, potentially harming the Conservative brand. However, I personally can’t imagine this being a widely used feature and so don’t feel it would be of significant detriment to the party.

The Liberal Democrats have also launched an application on the iTunes store which, whilst having a limited amount of features, gives users the chance to make and customise a video from their device. There are eight videos to choose from which detail key policies, jobs, world, community, family, life, money and also a ‘your say’ option – the app asks that you select three of these which it then process into a video of Nick Clegg explaining the party’s stance on the chosen topics. The idea of giving the public choice from the offset and allowing them to repeatedly change and customise the Liberal Democrat’s policies is a clever metaphor which works very well as an app. It would be nice to receive more information on the party, although, the application does offer the opportunity to sign-up to the party’s mailing list.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) were the first political party to launch an app which they describe as being ‘pioneering’ [1]. The app requires the user to create an account and sign in before they can use a number of the applications such as the twitter feed and the other social network tools. When creating an account, the user must concur with the licence agreement which states that the developers, Purple Forge Corporation, “may collect and use personal data” which will be used to promote related information; this, clearly, limits the application’s usage as users who read this information may refuse to sign in.

The app doesn’t seem to expand upon the UKIP brand or present any real cohesive similarity to it aside from the colour scheme which is prominent throughout.

One iPhone app I found particularly interesting was from The Green Party. The app ties in perfectly with their overall campaign which includes a brand new a

dvertisement and a redesigned website (www.onlygreen.org.uk) all by Glue London. Mark Cridge, the chief executive of the aforementioned agency stated that their “brief was simple and exciting; ensure voters are aware just how closely the full range of Green Party’s policies actually match up with what voters really believe in,” [2]. Glue certainly succeeded in delivering the party exactly what they wanted. The app consists of a quiz which asks users for their views on such issues as the economy, housing and the NHS in an attempt to show how their views align with those of the Green Party; this is used to show voters that they “have a wide range of progressive policies that cover much more than just the environment”.

The questions are fairly leading and prompt obvious responses from the users to ensure that they finish the test with a high percentage to demonstrate a likemindedness to the Green Party and their policies; the same test can also be completed online. The results from either the website or the app allow results to be shared on Facebook and emails sent out to friends in order to “challenge” them with the same test. The consistency of the campaign is exceptional and, despite only releasing the iPhone app two days ago (12th April), the Green Party appear to be leaps and bounds ahead of the bigger political contenders with regards to the deployment and mastering of social media.

The website, simply but rather brilliantly, allows guests to create a custom campaign video to email to friends and family. The site asks users to choose the recipient’s name, a way of describing them (e.g. retired, student, single parent etc) and finally two political issues from a varied list which they would be most concerned with. The video then begins by addressing them personally and then running through the policies they would be most interested in finding out about. The clever customisation of these videos is intriguing in itself, making users more inclined to forward the video on to other people.

Overall, I’m not entirely convinced the above parties will gain votes based solely on the issuing of applications for mobile devices but do feel that there is great use in having these widgets of information stored faithfully in millions of people’s pockets around the country. I do feel that these apps should be a continuation of the party’s main campaigns in order to strengthen them and also build the party’s themselves as brands.

References

1. http://www.ukip.org/content/latest-news/1459-ukip-launches-pioneering-iphone-app

2. http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/news/996075/Green-Party-launches-personalised-party-election-broadcast/

Useful Links

1. http://www.thismuchiknow.co.uk/?p=312

2. http://thenextweb.com/uk/2010/04/09/uk-general-election-iphone-apps-roundup/

3. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/apr/12/advertising-green-party

4. http://econsultancy.com/blog/5713-fight-club-labour-and-conservative-iphone-apps-compared

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