So the votes are finally in and Scottish No Campaign is celebrating. Looking at their efforts through our politically neutral Clever Content lens, however, the only thing that is clear was their lack of clarity. We may be heading to DevoMax, but the campaign was DevoMix – the content and messaging failed in three major respects.
- The lack of a positive vision – The “No” campaign failed to carry its own vision beyond the plaintive pleas for the status quo and into the sunlit uplands of a more promising message – that not only We’re Better Together but that we will be in the future for “these x reasons”. Instead the No campaign became stuck in 2nd gear – painting a fearsome vision of a Yes vote, with a dollop of emotional appeal clumsily heaped on top.
- Too many cooks, too many messages – It was always going to be hard for the “No” campaign to speak with one voice across its uneasy political coalition. Yet, as the campaign reached its climax, the sense of on-the-hoof messages from Messrs Darling, Brown Cameron et al became a babble rather than a bludgeon. The “Yes” campaign may reflect they could have exploited this mixed messaging more ruthlessly.
- Forgetting the faithful – the No campaign consistently failed to inspire its Unionist base of support with clear and reassuring messages. Instead they were nearly forgotten and taken for granted until the prospect of defeat concentrated their minds.
In the end, the No campaign won in spite of the content, messaging and delivery of its campaign, not because of it.