Why wasn't SMS marketing used in the EU Referendum?

Hannah Johnston | Senior Marketing Executive

The outcome of the EU referendum is a definitive act for an entire generation. So why didn’t the government use mobile marketing to engage millennials to vote instead of a £9.3m leaflet campaign?

The Lost Generation

While the Leave campaign won Brexit with 51.9 percent of the vote, millennials – who have to live with the consequences of the decision for longer – overwhelmingly wanted to remain. According to YouGov data, 75 percent of 18-24s voted to remain, while 61 percent of over 65s voted Leave.

The Remain campaign made a token effort to engage millennials through a try-hard political broadcast designed to talk to those out “VOTIN”, in their own language. Instead of connecting with young people the campaign received responses that were ridiculin, mockin, damnin. VICE even called it “a robot’s attempt at creating content for young people.”

Yes, millennials do engage with video but the problem we have here is a strategic one. There’s no opportunity for two-way dialogue, co-creation or participation; no way for millennials to have a voice in this campaign.

If only there was a more compelling channel…

The answer is SMS marketing

“In the UK, 90 percent of millennials own a smartphone so there is no channel more effective for reaching this constantly connected demographic,” says Mobile Marketing Magazine. In fact, an IAB report finds that people consuming political information on their mobile are much more likely to vote.

Across the pond Obama has been making use of SMS marketing services in his political campaigns since 2008, Bernie Sanders created his own text messaging app and Hillary Clinton recently jumped on the political text message bandwagon to communicate to a country where 19% of voters prefer being communicated to via text message.

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SMS Marketing Tactics that Brexited the Building

SMS reminders

Whether it’s jogging your memory of a trip to the dentist or a hair appointment, textual reminders are handy. End of. We can only wonder how many millennials didn’t vote because they missed the registration deadline, or didn’t realise they needed to register.

SMS reminders could have been sent out in the run-up to voting day and could even have included personalised content, such as directions to the voter’s nearest polling station. In fact voters had to call the elections helpline to find out their nearest polling station, which seems absurd when a simple shortcode service for people to text for information could have streamlined the process.

Directing voters to online materials

The fact Google saw a huge surge in EU referendum search terms after voting had closed suggests not enough voters knew enough about what they were voting for. The government could have used SMS marketing services to signpost voters to web pages about voting, factual infographics or even quizzes to determine political alignment.

Live engagement

U.S. politicians have made use of live interaction during speeches but little was done to encourage engagement at key moments of the Brexit saga. What about a pre-poll that encouraged voters to text the name of their political camp in order to give the government live data to react to?

Maybe one day there could be an option to text to vote…

Are you looking to get more engagement out of your marketing campaigns? Mobile Tool is a dynamic SMS suite that allows you to send out everything from tactical one-off messages to behavioural and personalised recurring campaigns. Find out more about our SMS marketing services.

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