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Political marketing is key to electoral success

British politics is now consumer-led, with the main parties acting like businesses, designing their ‘product’ to suit what voters want, according to a new book written by an Aberdeen political scientist.

The real story will be what happens after the election on June 7, claims author Dr Jennifer Lees-Marshment, of the University of Aberdeen’s Department of Management Studies.

Politicians, including the present Prime Minister Tony Blair, follow rather than lead voters by shaping their policies according to what voters want, rather than adhering to ideologies. Political marketing and British political parties: The party’s just begun shows how British political parties now have to use comprehensive political marketing in order to gain electoral success.

Dr Lees-Marshment said that focus groups and opinion polls are now fundamental to the way in which political parties shape their policies.

“Parties now attempt to offer a complete product  - including their leader, membership rights and policy – that will appeal to a majority of voters, rather than being influenced by a political ideology and firm belief system,” she said.

“The real story of the election on June 7 is therefore what happens after it. New Labour has a future danger because their support is based on promised delivery.

“In 1983, Labour was a product-oriented party that was led by ideology and tried to persuade voters that their way was the right way, whereas New Labour in 1997, is the classic market-oriented party. It was not just the adoption of a new campaign style, but rather fundamental change in substance; policy promises of low tax and stricter measures on crime, a stronger leadership and constitutional reform were introduced. The new product was communicated so effectively that by the time of the election campaign, the Party had little to sell as the voters already knew what they had to offer.”

After the election on June 7, however, voters will be more demanding and critical. The New Labour design is not secure: their support in 1997 was gained purely on the basis of what they promised to deliver with clearly defined pledges. Since being in government, voters are questioning their performance more critically, and if not satisfied, will quite easily withdraw their votes, if not at this election, the one after.
The book goes on to discuss what this means for democracy – is British democracy thriving, or is the fact that there is no longer any ideological standpoint behind the messages of the major parties an affront to the democratic process? Tony Blair is often criticised for lacking principles: does this matter or are parties the most responsive to people they have ever been?

Political marketing and British political parties: The party’s just begun has been published by Manchester University Press and will be launched on Monday, June 4, at a reception at the James McKay Hall, King's College Conference Centre, at 6.30pm.


Notes to editors:

Jennifer Lees-Marshment is a Lecturer in the Department of Management Studies at the University of Aberdeen, where she researches and teaches political marketing. The book Political marketing and British political parties: the party’s just begun is the result of research conducted during her doctorate. Now in the Management Studies Department at Aberdeen, she is able to concentrate fully on developing the field of political marketing. She is currently working on her next book, The Political Marketing Revolution, also to be published by Manchester University Press. This will study political marketing in not just parties but the rest of the political system: public services, media, parliament, interest groups and local/devolved government.

The Department: Department of Management Studies: Political marketing is one of several innovative and distinctive research areas within the Department of Management Studies, and reinforces current interests in consumer behaviour and the marketing of professional services. Dr Lees-Marshment joins a team of researchers also interested in the area, including Dr Angus Laing and Dr Helen Haugh. Dr Laing and Lees-Marshment have already started work together on political party marketing and plan to conduct joint research on marketing in the public sector. The political marketing profile will be developed significantly over the next few years at Aberdeen and ensure the Department becomes the centre of research in Political Marketing and Management with opportunities for short courses for professionals as well as consultancy. The Department will host the Academy of Marketing’s political marketing specialist group conference in Aberdeen in September 2002.

Further information from Jennifer Lees-Marshment on 01224 272720, email or ring the Department of Management Studies on 01224 272712. Copies of the book can be obtained by contacting Tony Mason at Manchester University Press on 0161 275 7731.

University Press Office on telephone +44 (0)1224-273778 or email