Labour Wins Shock Election and Forms Coalition with Lib Dems*

“In what has to be the most shocking election results since Atlee defeated Churchill in 1945, Jeremy Corbyn is waking up this morning and trying to find the kettle in his new digs at Number 10. After a resounding loss, Theresa May has thanked her supporters and acknowledged that the will of the people must be done and has accepted exile in the Falkland Islands.”

If this is front-page news on Friday morning, remember you read it here first.

Theresa May conveniently called the snap election right after we released our Hitting the Mark benchmarking report. We thought we would apply the same methodology to the election with some obvious modifications. First, unlike the ecommerce brands in Hitting the Mark, political parties don’t really sell anything (insert your own joke here), so we could not analyse the post purchase journey. Secondly, because the election was such a surprise, we only have about a month’s worth of emails.

We signed up for emails from all of the parties that were represented in Parliament after the 2015 General Election:

General Themes

Across all of these parties, some general themes emerged. First, not all of the parties sent us emails even after we had subscribed. In many cases, this makes sense. We used two London postcodes as part of our sign-up. Many of these parties are regional and therefore have no candidates running in our constituencies; there is no real need to send us emails. If that were the case however, a simple email saying that would have been the polite thing to do. Additionally, if they did not intend to use the data, why did they collect it? It would have been better to let us know at the point of data capture that they would not be emailing us and would not be storing our data.

The second theme is that interest in finding out more about your organisation does not necessarily mean I want to ‘join’ your party, but that was the base assumption across all of the parties. Some came right out and said that upfront, while others were happy to capture you email address and only talk about ‘membership’, ‘accounts’, and ‘public profiles’ as part of the post sign-up or welcome messaging. We found that very off-putting. We wanted to know what each party stands for and why we should support them. Then, and only then, would we consider joining or donating money and time to get that party’s candidates elected. Perhaps this is because the election was so near but there was no sense of lead nurture or customer journey:

  • Would you like more information?
  • Are you interested?
  • Are you going to vote?
  • Are you going to vote for us?
  • Would you like to donate time, give money or join the party?

In the end, we only received emails from:

  • The Conservative Party
  • The Labour Party
  • Liberal Democrats
  • UK Independence Party (UKIP)
  • The Green Party
  • Plaid Cymru

One interesting trend across all of these parties is that they did not fully embrace the use of HTML, which we found surprising for a couple of reasons. Not only is a picture worth a thousand words but some of the parties’ websites, such as the Liberal Democrats, follow a very image-heavy design ethos.

Another trend we saw across all of the parties was that email has clearly become more important to them as we get closer to Election Day. When we first signed up in early May, email capture was prominent but when we looked again earlier this week we found that many of the parties had implemented email capture pop-ups or homepage takeovers.

The Labour Party

As you have probably already guessed, Labour came out on top with a score of 35.5 out of a possible 58. While they won 27% of the total points awarded, they were still almost 40% away from a perfect. Where Labour did well was that they varied their communications strategy based on the constituency from which we registered. One of our addresses was in Hampstead and Kilburn, which currently has three Labour MPs versus the Richmond Park constituency, which is very definitely not Labour. The additional emails sent to the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency were primarily ‘get-out-and-vote’ emails to ensure their supports did not get complacent and to actually turn out to the polls on June 8th. It was also clear that Labour is testing subject lines and content.

Liberal Democrats

Next up was the Liberal Democrats with 31.5 points out of the possible 58. Not only were they testing both subject line content, they were the only party to use emojis in their subject lines. The other things that the Liberal Democrats did well were:

  • Integrating their emails with other channels
  • Surveyed recipients on the issues that matter to them in this election
  • Asked readers if each email was useful
  • Had a preference centre as part of the unsubscribe process
  • Used a tone of voice that really spoke to the voters

For all of the good things that they did, they were clearly not perfect. Their copywriting really let them down by including spelling mistakes, split infinitives and bad sentence structure.

Aside from a single Labour email, the Liberal Democrats were the only party to include any design elements other than a logo by trying to include buttons. Unfortunately, the buttons did not really look like buttons. They looked like coloured rectangles and it was not clear if we were supposed to press them or if they were there for emphasis.

While we are on the topic of design, they could have done so much more. The Liberal Democrats have the base website from a design perspective, but it is actually a little jarring when you click from their plain email to their heavily designed site.

The Conservative Party

The biggest failing in The Conservative’s email program was their failure to send a welcome email. All of the other parties that sent us something started with at least an email confirmation, and some had fully fledged two- or three-step welcome programs. The Conservatives had none. This failing not only left a potential 21 points on the table, but also did nothing to reinforce that they were a party that cares about voters. They also sent the fewest emails, with only three messages going to the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency versus the 20 that Labour sent. The Conservatives did send an extra email to the Richmond Park constituency, which specifically targeted the Liberal Democrats who won the seat in a by-election on December 1st.

The Conservatives, like many of the other parties, were also not consistent with their ‘friendly from’ name. The Conservatives preferred the names of the ‘sender’ as the from name. The first email came from Phillip Hammond twelve days after we registered and then we received two from Theresa May. The extra email to the Richmond Park constituency, however, came from Patrick McLoughlin who it turns out is the Chairman of The Conservative party, but we wondered would most people know that (especially those who are not Conservative die hards)? It would be easy to have skipped over this email if we were not being paid to read every one.

Other Parties

Interestingly, the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and UKIP were the only parties that used confirmed opt-in, clearly indicating that they have a higher regard for voter data and privacy. That said, none of these three parties executed this well.

The Green Party’s confirmation email was clearly generated from their website and did not include their organisational details. Once the confirmation link is clicked, there is a page confirming that their account is active which is followed by an email that has the exact same message. Clearly, this is overkill, which ironically is a waste of electricity.

Plaid Cymru sent a confirmation email and then did not honour the fact that we did not click the confirmation link by sending a further three emails. Perhaps the reason we did not click the confirmation email was that it was written only in Welsh when all of their other emails were bilingual.

UKIP’s confirmation email turned out to be an account activation email. At no point thus far in the journey did they make it clear that we were setting up an account on the UKIP website. This was clear when we got to the confirmation page. Not only would we be setting up an account by completing the page but we would also have a public profile.


There have been so many articles written about how recent communications have been driven by the clever use of data. Based on the reported millions being spent on social media, this may be the case again on June 8th – but I cannot help but think that the UK’s political parties are missing a trick. Email is the most popular channel for consumers to maintain relationships with brands, but the parties are clearly not interested in building relationships or at least they have not been during this election season.

Email is the most effective marketing channel but only when used properly can organisations have human conversations at scale. The parties are getting some things right; personalisation, testing, location-based targeting. On the other hand, they are leaving a number of standard tools and techniques of the email marketer in the toolbox, such as automation, advanced segmentation and dynamic content.

*I cannot or will not make a prediction on the outcome of this election (I have gotten this horribly wrong over the past couple of years), but I can say that regardless of who wins it will not be based on the quality of their email programs.

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