What can Marketeers learn from Jeremy Corbyn?

This is a response to an article on the Marketing Partner‘s article asking: “What can Marketeers learn from Jeremy Corbyn?”


Remember the old adage: Oppositions don’t “win” elections, governments “lose” them.

What the mainstream politicians have done over the last decades is to consistently lie, lie and lie a bit more.

‘Wot did it for Labour’: Tony Blaire’s dodgy dossier dragged us into a war nobody wanted and which, as evidence has shown in the meantime, was based on false ‘evidence’ (there were no WMD after all).

Or for the Conservatives, David Cameron’s (too) many broken election promises. From “We’ll be the greenest government ever” to “We won’t scrap Child Tax Credits”, to “We’ll protect the NHS”. Take your pick. There are plenty more to chose from.

People are equally sceptical about the friends our governments cosy up to: from the head-chopping Saudis to the Palestinian-bashing Israelis, to the job-destroying Chinese.

This is what has created disillusioned voters.

And it is not just the political mainstream that is under fire, but a wider range of organisations. Just look at the VW scandal, FIFA, drugs in athletics, or the tax evasion by big corporations like Amazon, Starbucks.

If you’ve been watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s War on Waste, you’ll have seen that on their website Waitrose promises to be ethical and give surplus food to charities rather than binning it. Yet Hugh and his crew found bins full of perfectly edible food at the back of the stores.

This is a perfect example of companies breaking promises. Morrison’s say they work closely with their farmers… Yeah, right. Let’s get real. VW is not alone in fudging the truth. These companies, just like our politicians, are in danger of losing the trust of their customers.

This is what has created disillusioned customers.

To sum it up: people are discontent with what the mainstream is offering. And Corbyn turned up at the right time, right place.

He made his stand at the perfect moment, becoming a lightning rod for the discontent. 10 years ago he wouldn’t have got anywhere. But now is his moment. This is what makes him a potent opponent. No matter what smears the press throw at him, if he persists with displaying the attributes you mention, he is someone to watch out for.

In an attempt to break form the betrayal by the mainstream of politics, the electorate once turned to the Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage, but now has turned to the SNP (which is limited to Scotland but has broader appeal) and Corbyn.

To get back to your point though: “What do marketeers have to learn from Corbyn”.

So if marketeers really, really want to learn a lesson here, they and their clients first need to look at what it is that they are doing wrong. And setting that to rights.

Stand truthfully by what you are saying and doing. Don’t ‘greenwash’ your operation for example like Waitrose and Morrisons try and do. Practice what you preach. And be 100% committed – from the top down to the shop floor. No fudging. No: “we must watch or profit margin first”.

By breaking away from the corporate ‘middle ground’ companies and organisations could really gain their own, distinct voice and identity, and above all, gain the trust of a wider range of customers.

Corbynism is a simple brand to understand: be truthful and principled, and the rest will come to you when the moment is right and the other players fall by the wayside. If you just do what the others do because they appear to doing it right, you could get tarred with the same brush as they will be at some point down the line.

And here is one point not mentioned in Corbyn’s attributes: don’t just believe in what you do, but think long-term, and stick to it.

Is activism less effective than talking to the ‘enemy’?

In a challenging article in the Guardian, Deborah Doane argues that activist stunts make good headlines, but make no long-term difference. She cites as an examples Shell’s cancelation of arctic drilling, pointing out that it wasn’t the giant mechanical polar bear camped outside their HQ that persuaded them to abandon the project, but pure financial considerations.  She puts forward the notion that even the suffragettes’ militant tactics hindered rather than help their cause.

The proposition put forward in the article is that activists take stock and, to be more effective in bringing about change, they should start sitting round the table with the ‘enemy’, focusing instead on shifting existing cultural values.

Her central argument is that “we spend far too much time preaching to the converted and not nearly enough time conversing with people who disagree with us.”

What I think she fails to realise is that many organisations do a bit of both. I know from professional experience that organisations like Oxfam do this rather well. You may hear about an Oxfam campaign here and there, but there is a lot more work they are doing behind the scenes in persuading governments to modify policies, as well as working in collaboration with corporations. The carrot and stick approach, so to speak, works well for them and other organisations.

She also seems to fail to understand that, while Shell may well have abandoned their arctic drilling project (at a loss of some $7 billion) because of financial considerations, activism is much more than a simple exercise of campaigning for change.

When she says “we spend far too much time preaching to the converted”, she is quite right – but doesn’t see the bigger picture. The reality is that you can’t spend enough time preaching to the converted. They are after all the driving force behind the causes they support. Their motivation and dedication in turn inspires and attracts new supporters and, more importantly, increases the willingness for others to donate to the cause. This is the life-blood for any organisation.

Just consider this example for a moment: without the high visibility of activism and media attention, public awareness of Greenpeace would start dropping off, and as they disappear out of the public’s awareness the flow of donations would eventually stop altogether. Without that steady inflow of donations Greenpeace could not possibly sit around a table with the ‘enemy’. They’d have no pressure points, and no funds to support their staff.

What other options are there, other than being funded by public donations? Considering that corporations look after their financial interests first and foremost, could you really imagine Shell financing Greenpeace?  Never mind that Greenpeace’s credibility would be non-existent as they would be seen to be in the pockets of the corporations they are supposed to oppose.

My thoughts are that, while some activist stunts do seem a repetition of previous efforts, and there does sometimes appear to be too much of the same going on around the world, activism does have an important role to play in getting the message across, rallying support – and affecting cultural shifts.

Through activism the public is made aware that somebody is doing something about issues they care about – and so are worth putting in the time and money. Simply put: activism is campaigning organisation’s value-added selling point.

While Deborah cites the militant suffragettes as an example of where activism appears to be a distraction from achieving the objective of the cause (I wonder what some feminists have to say about that), she conveniently forgets to mention the real impact activism can have. From Martin Luther King and the civil rights marches, Gandhi’s independence campaign or Nelson Mandela’s apartheid struggle. These are all shining examples of  how activism can be a powerful force of change. And in all those examples, it was in the end the power of activism that brought the ‘enemy’ to the table, and thus a change in culture.

How Has the World Changed in the Last 20 Years?

UNITED NATIONS, New York – Twenty years ago, the international community gathered in Cairo, Egypt, to explore how the world was changing and how those changes were affecting the most vulnerable. At the 1994 meeting, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the world agreed that population issues – including voluntary family planning, maternal and child health, migration, and gender equality – are not just about counting people, but about making sure that every person counts.

At the conference, 179 governments signed on to the ICPD Programme of Action, which recognises that women, their rights and equality are global development priorities. The governments committed to: providing universal access to voluntary family planning, sexual and reproductive health services and rights; delivering gender equality and equal access to education; addressing the impacts of urbanization and migration; and supporting sustainable development.

Today, the world is very different, transformed by the digital revolution and advances in medicine and human knowledge. But has it changed in the ways we hoped it would?

In this set of amazing data there are lots of positives. Shown here are just some of the figures. Read more here about how the UNFPA sees some of the biggest ways our world is different, and what more must be done.

Adolescent childbearing has dropped by half in some countries
Deaths in child birth have dropped
Life expectancy has increased