Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: 22-07-22
The battle for our next prime minister | Rishi making a case for a sense of humour | Ryanair's reputation u-turn
Truss & Rishi battle for the top spot as Penny is left behind
When analysing the contest to pick our next prime minister, it was clear from the start we lack the type of character that can command a room. Absent of a political beast, we’re in the age of “tax-cutting Conservatives” and slipping deeper into mediocrity.
The Tory party members will now choose a leader to govern the country. Two hundred thousand voters will pick between Truss, a weak village hall amateur actor, versus Sunak, an out-of-touch millionaire banker out of step with reality. But what is particularly fascinating is how they’ve rebranded themselves. Truss has pulled off a significant U-turn, presenting herself as a hard-line Brexiter, while Rishi is the Remainer’s favourite.
As a reminder, we’re talking about Rishi Sunak - a well-known Brexiter and Vote Leave backer finding popularity amongst Remain Tory members. In contrast, the Remainer and campaigner Liz Truss has galvanised the ERG (Hard Brexiter MPs) into backing her along with Leave voting members. It’s a remarkable feat of policy restructuring as if they’ve wiped the past several years from Tory’s collective memory.
Truss has found strength in her image: speaking in front of flags, championing the New Royal Yacht, and becoming a torchbearer for Brexit. ‘Women of the people’, her team presents her as the deliverer for the working class, leveraging her working-class background and comprehensive school roots. On the other hand, Rishi is seen as the establishment figure; a former banker most would have assumed fit into the Remain camp. But instead, he is tarnished by turning on Boris (as discussed below).
While Rishi is trailing behind in member polling, his team will have to navigate how to embrace his posh schoolboy past and millionaire status while embracing the working-class-Leave-voter and members to win. It’s a tall order, and it’s safe to say it will get ugly.
Rishi’s stunt & attempt at being human
Rishi Sunak turned to a classic consumer PR tactic this week as his quest to become the next Tory leader continues to gather momentum.
In what seemed to be an effort to show humanity, the common touch and the elusive sense of humour, the former chancellor gifted lobby journalists a campaign travel pack featuring a (fun size) can of fizzy drink - a ‘humorous’ reference to his infamous ‘coke addict’ gaffe, as well as a (one finger) Twix and a Rishi-branded bottle of factor 30 sun cream.
After what many felt was a strong start to his tenure in No.11, Rishi fell out of favour with the public when details emerged of his non-dom status and his wife’s (lack of) tax arrangements.
His resignation, seemingly waking from a 2-and-a-half-year fugue state to discover that Boris was something of a rotten egg, was also widely seen as opportunistic and cynical.
His relatability took another thwack when a video emerged of a teenage Rishi featured in a BBC documentary from the early 00s lol’ing at his lack of working-class friends and the delight he takes when he reveals to inner city school kids that he went to Winchester.
Against this somewhat queasy backdrop, the humanising self-awareness of the gift package was supposed to exude would have been a welcome tonic. But it only achieved meme status, with observers rapidly pointing out the cringe ‘Dad-dancing’ vibes and the stinginess of a guy worth hundreds of millions of pounds not even being able to stump out for a full-size can. So the stunt was quite literally a finger short of a Twix.
Is social media turning a new chapter for Ryanair?
Those interested in viral social media moments may already be familiar with Ryanair’s marketing tactics. Ryanair has a knack for producing viral content; whether blasting public figures or poking fun at disgruntled customers, their combative style gets attention.
Plotting when Ryanair committed to this punchy social media strategy is challenging. It most likely followed Covid’s disruption - grinding the industry to a halt. Still it’s safe to assume it was a response to its reputation as one of the sub-par budget airlines, known for ripping off customers at every possible avenue. However, despite the wider industrial disputes across Europe over pay and working conditions, Ryanair has suffered the least disruption and cancellations in recent months, as revealed by Sky News last week.
And this week, Ryanair is coming out on the front foot, with their boss Michael O’Leary making headlines urging the government to take the “practical, common sense” approach to post-Brexit policy and immigration, showing self-awareness and understanding of the storylines driving the broader debate.
Getting in front of the impending summer holiday travel crisis is savvy. Disrupting Brits’ summer holidays and travel plans is a reputational disaster that airlines and the government must avoid. They’re leveraging their momentum in the press and appealing to our sense of humour with one of the best corporate social media teams out there.
Their social strategy effectively responds to the ‘customer is always right’ culture, where blue-tick Twitter accounts drive complaints to the top of our algorithms in the hope of corporate accounts placating angry customers to avoid bad press.
Borislav Ivanov @codeninja_007@Ryanair I am very disappointed! I understand random allocation of seats, but when I have bought two tickets for me and my gf, why would you separate us?!? Clearly there were two random seats next to each other…
Creating noise with a solid social media strategy is smart, but deploying a system that encompasses social media, marketing and PR to change your brand’s image over a long period is brilliant. So let’s see if Ryanair can build on the momentum, especially with a tricky Summer of travel disruption ahead.