Change Makers

By Brian Byrne     11th Feb 2020  

On Sunday as Storm Ciara sent hail hurtling against my windows, I sat snuggly inside with a glass of red and watched the 2020 Irish general election results roll in. And oh, what entertainment! From Danny Healy Rae exclaiming “To hell with the planet” to the Dessie Ellis cohort singing “Come out ye Black and Tans”, I haven’t had as much fun since that time Maria Bailey said “Sean” 247 times in a 20-minute radio interview!

But apart from the questionable triumphalism, and well, the pig ignorance of some of our elected officials, one thing became very apparent—if you get your messaging right, if it resonates with enough people, and you repeat it again and again then you are on to a winner! Sinn Fein is now statistically the most popular party in Ireland.

What was their message? Change! “If you want change, vote for Sinn Féin”. “We are the voice of change.” “A vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for change.” “People who voted for Sinn Féin voted for change.” It was a simple, powerful message, and they hammered it home. When leader Mary Lou McDonald entered the RDS count centre on Sunday, she continued the mantra, “Obviously this election was all about change,” she told reporters. “Sinn Féin went to the people, and we convinced them in very, very large numbers that we are the alternative, that we are the vehicle for change.”

I am not naive enough to think that it was just their message that got Sinn Féin over the line; it wasn’t. The homeless crisis, problems in healthcare, a Taoiseach who seemed to be lacking in empathy and a Fianna Fáil party still distrusted after the economic crash, all played their part. People are genuinely tired of unaffordable rents, the lack of housing, and being repeatedly let down by the health service. So the appetite for change was already out there, and Sinn Féin cleverly tapped into that. But do not underestimate the power and the impact of a simple message, clearly delivered. Over and over again.

The performance of the party is astonishing given that last year Sinn Féin was hammered in the local and European elections. They dropped from 159 council seats to 81 and lost two MEPs: Lynn Boylan in Dublin and Liadh Ní Riada in Ireland South. So how did they turn it around? Well, they said they spoke to people ‘on the doors’ and they were fed up with their negativity toward the government and wanted a more positive outlook. They listened to what the people had to say, and they took note.

Sinn Féin is a polarising party, for all sorts of historical reasons and whether you like them or not there are lessons we can take from their campaign in terms of its messaging. As a business owner, designer or marketer, developing simple, effective messaging that resonates with customers is a powerful tool for building brand awareness.

Alina Wheeler in Designing Brand Identity gives a great synopsis—“Stay on message. The best brands speak with one voice. On the web, in a tweet, in a sales pitch, in a speech given by the president, the organisation needs to project the same unified message. It must be memorable, identifiable and centred on the customer.”

Good old Alina could actually be describing how Sinn Féin won the election there! The consistent message across all platforms. Check! The party leader and members all communicating with one voice. Check! A memorable, unified message based on their understanding of their target voters. Check!

“As a business owner, designer, or marketer, developing simple, effective messaging that resonates with customers is a powerful tool in building brand awareness.”

Purpose, drama, aspiration are all crucial elements in developing effective messaging. Here’s brand strategy guru, Marty Neuimer, “Strong, clear messaging emanates from a strong, clear purpose. A carefully considered messaging system allows you to dramatise the uniqueness of your brand and spread the word effectively.”

Sinn Féin’s mantra — a party for change, doesn’t tell their entire story but it’s derived from their overall purpose of a united Ireland. It has enough drama and aspiration to be memorable, identifiable and effective. High performance, delivered. Building a smarter planet. The ultimate driving machine. Three examples of messaging from Accenture, IBM and BMW. Like Sinn Féin they have a lot more to tell you about their organisations, but they choose to tell us the most compelling part of their story first.

And by the way, the irony of comparing a socialist party with big business is not lost on me! But that’s the Sinn Féin paradox and what makes this all the more interesting. They’re using capitalist methods to enhance their socialist agenda.

In her Forbes article, Style vs Substance In The World Of Marketing, Jennifer Freyman writes, “A commonly heard piece of advice is—know your audience. As the deliverers of a message, it’s important to remember where these messages are going and how they might be perceived.”

“And by the way, the irony of comparing Sinn Féin to big business is not lost on me!”

Knowing your audience is crucial in writing effective messaging and Sinn Féin did this very successfully. As people who are engaged in developing brand messaging, we can replicate this to our advantage. Talk to your customers, engage with them, listen to what they have to say. Find out their hopes, dreams and fears. Discover their motivations, their challenges, and draft your messaging based on those needs and the solutions you can provide.

Marketing consultant, Lissa Reidel, reinforces this point, she writes “Use language that resonates with meaning for your customers. They will complete the message with layers of their own meaning. Aim for clarity, brevity and precision.” Remember, “Get Brexit Done”? How could you forget! The Tory mantra hammered home by Boris Johnson at every possible opportunity, that, well, got Brexit done! Clarity. Brevity. Precision. Meaning. I’m no fan of Boris and Brexit but whatever your politics, whether you’re a Eurosceptic or not, you have to agree, that objectively, it was a clever piece of campaign messaging. Can anyone remember Labour’s message? No! Nobody can.

And like the Tories, though they won’t like the comparison, Sinn Féin understood the power of a simple message, clearly delivered. They knew their audience, understood their frustrations, and their desire for change. The knowledge they gained by speaking and listening to the people allowed them to tap into the social consciousness of the country and deliver a seismic result that has changed the Irish political landscape forever.

Brian Byrne is a graphic designer and founder of Lands.
Sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of the page and you'll never miss a post!

0 Comments

Recent Posts

20x20
Thursday, March 12th we are hosting our first 20x20 event at The Sky and the Ground in Wexford. Join Fuse:d, the 100 Archive and a host of creative people and businesses...

The Culture Collections No.13
This collection includes Annie Albers, Buster Keaton, Richard Kindersly, The Yoto Papers, Ricardo Boffil’s La Muralla Roja, music from Eluvium and more...

Free Strategy Download
For regular readers of the blog, you know how passionate I am about brand strategy. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a Brand Strategy Checklist...

The Culture Collections No.12
This collection includes Billie Holiday, If Posters won Oscars, Dust to Digital, Camille Walala and Lego, South Korean Film Classics, Linda McCartney Polaroids and more…

Change Makers
If you get your messaging right, if it resonates with enough people, and you repeat it again and again then you are on to a winner! Sinn Fein are now the most popular party in Ireland...

The Culture Collections No.11
This collection includes Lucienne Day, Aphex Twin, Radiohead Public Library, The Plot Against America, Print Punch, Swimming Under Glaciers and more…

Brand Strategy Checklist
So what actually goes into a brand strategy document? The list below contains what we include in our strategy documents and what should you have in yours?

The Culture Collections No.10
This collection includes Paul Rand, Anna Burns, Irma Boom, Music from Devendra Banhart, Type Notes, The True History of the Kelly Gang and more…

Your Vision Realised
In essence, brand strategy is how you shape the perception of your brand. It’s a statement of who you are, why you exist, where you want to get to in the future....

The Culture Collections No.9
This collection includes Winter Papers, Bantry store Forest and Flock, Vaughan Oliver, Fleabag, the great Milton Glaser, Essential Movies of 2020 and more....

Christmas Giveaway
As its Christmas, I'm offering a free brand strategy engagement to one business early in the new year! The offer includes a Brand Strategy workshop and a comprehensive brand document...

The Culture Collections No.8
This collection includes Cow House Studios, new music from Beck Hansen, Irish magazine Turf and Grain, Corita Kent, Anthony Burrill and more...

Design Is Strategy Amplified
Following on from my last blog post, I want to give you an idea of how brand strategy is implemented at Lands and how it's the basis for effective identity design....

The Culture Collections No.7
This collection includes Nick Cave, Muriel Cooper, Conor O'Leary, the Tesla Cybertruck, Leonard Cohen's posthumous album and more ...

Roadmap For Success
A continuing topic of conversation among the participants is brand strategy—the difficulties people have explaining it to their clients and as a result, how to sell it...

The Culture Collections No.6
This collection includes lessons from Paula Scher, Tonic of the Sea, new music from FKA Twigs, Bean and Goose and more ...

Finding Your Niche
A common topic of discussion amongst the students is niching down, a strategy that Seth himself, advocates...

The Culture Collections No.5
This collection includes Dieter Rams, 100 Archive, Vivian Maier, Lankum, Oliver Jeffers, The Mandalorian and more...

Imagining a Better World
When you have success with one methodology, it's tempting to keep using it. But its a strategy doomed to fail. ...

The Culture Collections No.4
This collection includes Chris Morris, new music from Poliça, Martin Parr, Judy & Punch, Henri Matisse pottery and more...

Easing Fear Through Charm and Wit
Its Friday night, Michael has just settled down to binge-watch the new Netflix show he’s been dying to see...

The Culture Collections No.3
This collection includes Wim Crouwel, Mitch Epstein, Basciville, PJ Harvey, The Lighthouse and more ...

Culture Night: Designing Wexford
As I drove through Wexford on Friday night, it quickly became apparent that the town was packed. Culture Night was back ...

The Culture Collections No.2
This collection includes new music from Angel Olsen, Cove Magazine, Brother Hubbard, Boundary Brewery and more...

Swim Goals
I swam my first ever kilometre on Saturday. Well, 1.2 kilometres to be exact. A sea swim, with waves...

The Culture Collections No.1
A new feature where we regularly share things we love from the world of art, design, music, film...

The Ogilvy Sign
A man helps another man through the beauty of words and an understanding of the human spirit...

Your Brand is Good for Business
How can a brand be good for business I hear you ask? Aren't businesses and brands the same thing... 

Teach What You Know
I just finished reading the excellent 'Show Your Work' by Austin Kleon...

Welcome to Lands
Lands is the rebranded design studio of Wexford native Brian Byrne...

Sharing culture and expertise through our newsletter

When you subscribe to our newsletter, you will receive regular updates, news, articles and opinions. Also, we want to help — if you have questions about your logo, identity, brand strategy, or how design might benefit your business, please get in touch. With your permission, we will use the newsletter to share and answer any questions you might have.

You can unsubscribe at any time, and we will never share your email address.