One of the most successful IT companies ever is Apple. People queue for hours outside shops, waiting for the new iPhone to be released. There is a cult-like following, almost a religion, of devotion to the Mac, the iPhone, the iPad. In reality, while often beautiful designed pieces, the technology underneath an iPhone is little different to that offered by many other companies, such as mobile phone producer Samsung; in fact, in many ways the latter is a better product. Nonetheless, people worship Apple. Why? What can political parties learn from this?

If UKIP’s digital outreach is to succeed, there is a need to have the humility to learn from history. The whole party faces a crisis similar to that in Apple’s actual history: when the CEO Steve Jobs left, the party died, and when he returned, it thrived. UKIP is lost without Nigel Farage, known for charismatic speeches in Brussels, at the wheel. Why? There is one fundamental point, that Henry Bolton’s pathetic new ‘Digital Strategy’ fails to even begin to comprehend, because just like his “leadership”, it lacks vision but is cold and mechanical.

Too often in business, and politics, especially UKIP, there is a focus on the mechanics alone, and not feelings. Everybody knows “what” they do 100%. Some know how they do it. But very few people or organisations know why they do it. Get this wrong, and UKIP will die. We don’t just want technology; any old idiot can install a website – we want to use technology to send our message.

People do not love Apple for the products. No, it’s not about the spec of the camera in their phone. It’s about far more than slick styling. It’s about a social revolution. It touches the heart when it says those who are odd, who are different, who don’t follow the trend, who rebel, are the heroes who go far. Isn’t this close to the UKIP “libertarian” anti-establishment message? Aren’t we the eccentrics of politics? So why are we being so damn boring?

Chris Mendes’ boring Digital Strategy for Bolton merely stutters, “I have a plan.” This isn’t the 1990s: simply installing a new website will achieve nothing more than line someone’s pocket! This cold, robotic manifesto devoid of imagination ignores that the biggest problem is not which system is used, but how: the message must reach hearts! People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Any strategy plan should not flog systems, but should talk about dreams. It should have an analysis of how social media helped Trump reach beyond legacy media; what about his messages was so successful? Was it that he mentioned the pain people felt, and then gave them hope of change? Meanwhile UKIP social media such as Facebook has some of the worst graphic design, devoid of hope, spewing technical policy stuff that drives you to suicide. It has some of the most dull artwork in the world.

This is the age of the mobile phone. The Digital Strategy ignores a major flaw with the UKIP website. It is not “mobile first”. People are checking their phone on the train, sneakily at work, on the toilet. They are in a rush. They are impatient. We must have short videos, like Trump did, that feature pithy soundbites or segments of speeches that spoke to real people.

As someone who works in this industry, I say with authority that this ‘strategic document’ is just empty waffle: technical sounding words to give an impression of competence. This proposal doesn’t name existing systems; it’s just a sales pitch to flog a new one. The party already has the system it needs: NationBuilder – every political party uses this; even Rebel Media does. You can filter messages, and target people very efficiently. To connect with them; to tailor your message to their hearts.

Oddly, UKIP barely uses the Nation Builder features it pays much for, and then stated in the UKIP newsletter that MailChimp is being implemented for emails, though Nation Builder provides such – paying twice for the same thing. The Digital Strategy plan ignores this glaring problem. UKIP does not need more systems! Again and again, people turn up, pitching at businesses plans with fancy words to impress those who don’t work in software engineering; money is shelled out; someone makes a quick buck; but the problems still remain. Why?

The Digital Strategy plan asks for an entirely unjustified £6,000 sum to Chris Mendes to implement this KipperPress, which is really a free system called WordPress. The only cost should be labour to tweak a template; time to implement it. As Chris has requested a CTO position in UKIP, which would likely be salaried, the cost would be covered therein, and hence he has some damn cheek to ask for £6,000, but the back office will probably again throw money at nothing.

If someone is to head up the Digital Outreach of UKIP and get results, they need to truly appreciate the need not just to implement systems, but to pull at heartstrings. They lack the imagination for the new approaches that Momentum implemented; in fact, they won’t have a clue what I just referred to. Cold, mechanical types like Bolton focus on the “outside” layer of our brain, the neocortex, that is rational. They might appeal to the rational world of accountants, but they won’t set the world on fire.

When someone like Bolton does a pitch, they would talk about this feature that a phone or laptop has, such as how long the battery lasts, or the size of the screen. Is that really why you love a product? No. How often do you go shopping, and in the heat of the moment buy something, then later regret it? Bolton can give someone all the facts and figures he wants, and they will look at them, but it just doesn’t ‘feel’ right. Selling an idea is an emotional thing, not a rational one.

At MBGA News, we might know a thing or two about technology, because this News outlet is run by Britain’s most patriotic engineers. We know what we are doing; without buckets of money we reach 25,000 subscribers on YouTube. We also have 50,000 followers on Facebook. We talk about what people feel.

Sadly, as in many businesses, the old guard are naive on engineering, and taken for ride. Simply dumping a new system in place will achieve nothing more than burn money. You need a real strategy that talks the language of feelings. But if you don’t know why you do what you do, then how will you ever get someone to buy into it, and be loyal, or want to be a part of what it is that you do?


[Reprinted with kind permission from MBGA News where this article was first published.]

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