Natalie Bennett’s 2015 Election campaign collateral

Green Party Leader and 2015 General Election candidate for Holborn & St Pancras constituency, Natalie Bennett

The Green Party approached us for support in the run-up to the UK’s 2015 General Election. Party Leader Natalie Bennett was standing against Labour’s Keir Starmer in Holborn & St Pancras and her team needed some attention-grabbing campaign materials to mainstream the green vote.

Back story

In late 2014 we were asked by Alexis Rowell to help with Natalie Bennett’s General Election campaign. Her team needed creative and production support as well as a design strategy. Camden’s volunteer team of designers had been fighting with the Green Party visual brand which couldn’t really express the ambition of a modern political party.

At the time, The Greens were experiencing what was being referred to as the Green Surge. Moreover, it wasn’t easy for all the various designers working on an ad-hoc basis to maintain consistency and clarity of messaging. And around the time we were brought in, a major struggle was taking place between broadcasters and the UK’s smaller parties to fight for better representation in the televised debates.

All this served to highlight the need for the party to aim for a far more consistent and confident visual brand.

What we did

We discovered early on that the Green Party’s existing MP, Caroline Lucas, had recently engaged Small Axe Communications to redesign her visual brand. And this brand was soon to roll-out to the national party. So we adopted it for all Natalie’s campaign materials.

We also realised we needed a simple, overarching visual campaign theme to tie together the collateral. Luckily, as well as typography, colour palettes and layout consistency, Caroline’s excellent new brand also inadvertently offered a creative approach which solved this issue too. Many of her publicity photographs showed her holding cards with hand-written messages on them. We thought this idea of communicating with handwritten messages captured the human, democratic essence of the party in a simple way.

Based on our understanding of the Green Party’s fundamental democratic principles, we developed a creative solution in which each piece of collateral could allow voters to communicate with the party using simple fill-in forms. The idea also conveniently answered the need to gather data to help segment constituents for the voters database. But, more importantly, it spoke to the Greens’ need to crystallise a sense of genuine democracy and the need for a two-way public discourse in UK politics. The concept resonated with the campaigns team so we began developing creative solutions which aimed for this ideal.

Calling card

This was our first design: a simple postcard format flyer which door-to-door canvassing teams could leave behind in empty households. We instructed the photographer to ensure Natalie held up a card with a text field large enough that canvassers could write in the name of the householder. The idea was really well-received by the campaigns team which led on to us building on it for the Policy flyer.

Policy flyer

This follow-up to the Calling card was a more complex piece. Essentially, it is two postcards, joined together on a perforation. This fold enabled one half to be filled in by the constituent who could then post it back to the Campaign Headquarters. The other half was designed so that it could be kept for reference or passed on to friends and family.

Constituency letter

The core of Camden Green Party’s campaign for 2015 was this Constituency letter. It was eventually distributed to the tens of thousands of Holborn and St Pancras households across the entire constituency. The front side was intentionally designed to appear very much like a standard letter. However, on the reverse, we focused on communicating the idea that Natalie was really interested to hear from constituents themselves about what was important to them from a selection of the party’s top-line policy positions. This approach was then reinforced below with a full data capture form where constituents and supporters could pledge to volunteer, donate or join the party themselves. A matching envelope added to the overall brand consistency and to introduce key messages before recipients had even opened it.

Window poster

Owing to time constraints, we weren’t able to print the interactive poster which we originally planned. However, the poster itself was intended to reinforce the branding on the other items of collateral.

What happened next?

Camden’s Campaign Team was filled with some profoundly talented writers, photographers, campaign planners and other designers. This was a real team effort and all of us combined to create some really great-looking design work for Natalie’s toolkit. We like to think that the collateral played at least a small part in her significantly increased share of the vote in this very safe Labour seat, from fourth (1,480 votes) to third (7,013 votes) – nearly twice as many as the Lib Dems.

Reflections

We felt incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such an excellent campaign team on Natalie’s collateral. What’s more, there was a fantastic work ethic on display. We think there is a lot the party could be doing to mobilise digital technology to support its campaigning in future. They’re already using some clever database tools to help target activities to where they can have the greatest impact. So, for us, the next step the Greens should take is to target their materials even more accurately and build integrated campaigns which can engage new supporters from offline media (leaflets, flyers and posters) as well as social media then lead them to the web. We also think there’s a role here for variable data printing and even greater levels of personalisation. The party could even begin to explore what ongoing democratic engagement looks like in terms of collateral. If the greens truly believe that this is an era of new politics (and we hope they’re right) then they could do a lot worse than to take the long view and genuinely embrace digital platforms. Doing so could help them achieve far greater gains in the forthcoming mayoral and European elections. We’re hoping that we will maintain an ongoing relationship with the Green Party for future campaigns and we see a clear need for a more strategic approach to communications and digital campaigning for future campaigns.