Politics is going on a consumer journey

Interel Director, Lee Whitehill, looks at how consumer issues and changing technology are influencing parties approach to the general election #interelGE15

Living standards and consumer issues are gearing up to be an important battle ground in next year’s general election.

The attempt by the ASH campaign group to rebrand sugar as the new tobacco at the beginning of the year and the ground shaking news that Sugar Puffs have decided to rebrand as Honeymonster Puff’s says it all really.

What’s being finalised in the political manifestos has been shaped by the big consumer issues that have hit the headlines over the last 12 months:

• spiralling energy costs, 
• public health and obesity,
• food safety, 
• data security.

How politicians will deal with consumer issues is important in terms of authenticity. The Liberal Democrats vowed in 2010 to abolish tuition fees and look what’s happened to them. The Conservatives flip flopping over minimum unit pricing of alcohol and standardised cigarette packaging tells its own story, as does Labour straining at the leash to restrict marketing and sponsorship for FMCG producers.

Five years of austerity has meant it’s now cool to shop around and the shift to tablets and smart phones, particularly with the millennials coming of age, means there’s no going back in time, no matter what Nigel Farage and co want.

Politicians now know all this because the parties, to one extent or another, have adopted the digital tactics pioneered first by Howard Dean in the US Presidential Elections in 2004 and then, more successfully, by Obama in 2008 and 2012, and they are listening.

The skills sets of ministers and CEOs are now interchangeable and the consumer journey will become increasingly important to politicians as they wrestle with the kaleidoscoping of old political certainties.

Ministers are increasingly resigning to spend more time with their constituencies and the party that cracks hyper-localism, which targets voters on local issues as part of national campaigns, may have found the anti UKIP elixir.