Raheem Akingbolu takes a look at the place of marketing and branding in the ongoing electioneering campaign of political office seekers, using the Lagos State gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Akinwunmi Ambode, as an example
Since the shift from core traditional marketing to digital, product positioning and personality branding, are now being tailored along these lines. From the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to the All Progressive Congress (APC), and other political parties, the tone of campaigns have taken a new shape across the country. Knowing fully well that the number of Nigerians on the internet are daily increasing, every candidate has now seen the need to be present on almost all the social media platforms to reach their target audience.
However, with the February general elections around the corner and the tempo of the campaigns on the increase, the campaigns of some candidates in the forthcoming general election have begun to attract the attentions of marketing communications practitioners. These practitioners contended that candidate’s positioning and personal brand expressions have the power to make or break their intentions to win vote and actualise their political ambition at whatever level.
Speaking to THISDAY on the new development, the Head, Media Research at Redline PR, Mr. Ganiyu Olowu, applauded the responsiveness of Nigerian politicians to the new global trend.
According to him, “Almost all candidates are looking for value in digital media and this is good for the system. The reason is simple: the youth represents over 60 per cent of the target audience of the would-be leaders and the best place to hook up with the youths is through the various social media platforms. A quick look at various politicians show that almost all of them are on Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram that is a mere infographic platform. But because it is a beautiful and fun way to share information with followers, politicians are using it. Let me give a recent example. Because twitter is fast in sharing information, the APC gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, used it during the Yuletide period to greet Lagosians and within the few seconds of his broadcast, the PDP candidate, Jimi Agbaje, followed suit. This simply showed that Nigerian leaders are waking up to the reality of the moment.”
Since the beginning of democracy in the United States, campaign strategies of their presidential candidates have constantly evolved to keep up with changing forms of media, the whims of their audience and the election process. For instance, former President Reagan introduced bumper stickers into the American presidential campaigns while President Obama introduced the use of Twitter accounts.
In Nigeria, political campaigns is gradually getting more professional and in tune with the global changing media consumption. Though the use of the Social Media has been on the increase in the country, traditional media still remains a force to reckon with which explains the heavy dependence of the traditional print press, radio and television as a means to reach the mass of the people.
Industry watchers opined that Nigerian politicians are beginning to recognise the importance of political branding and marketing as a science to win votes.
Marketing practitioners insisted that politicians have begun to adopt the marketing principles that competing brands adopt in a bid to win a bigger share of the market.
Some of these strategies, observers said include brand positioning, leveraging personal strong points and integrity, endorsements and, brand offerings and benefits amongst others.
According to John Feyipitan, a brand builder and marketing professional, these are some of the fulcrum that the gubernatorial candidate of the APC in Lagos, has based his campaign on thus far.
Positioning via Strong Points
Political marketing practitioners insisted that political messages resonate with the targets when it refer to the voters as the hero and play up what the voters stand to benefit from voting a particular candidate as against another in an election. This, they argued further is helped when the candidate has integrity to stake.
They argued that when the politician craft his campaign messages as being the fight to improve the life of the voters’ life, or something similar and come with some good measure of integrity, the voters are more likely to believe him. The import of the foregoing is that the voters will not trust any candidate until they are clear such candidate has the voters’ interest at heart.
Speaking further, Feyipitan noted that, “If you asked me, Ambode has been very strategic with his campaigns for governorship of Lagos State, without mincing words, I can tell that his campaign messages and appearances are being coordinated by professional political marketing consultants. His New Year’s Day goodwill message to Lagosians was simply spot on.”
To analysts, Ambode appears to be playing the above card so well. In his campaign messages and manifestoes, he has always insisted that what drives his ambition to become governor of Lagos was the need to create an enabling environment for every resident of the state to thrive. The gubernatorial hopeful, who became a chartered accountant at 27, contended that creating an enabling environment for people and businesses in the state would greatly reduce the problem of youth unemployment to a manageable level.
“Whatever we do, the people are at the core of policies. Before we do anything, the question we ask ourselves is, how many employment opportunities will this create? We will create jobs as an intervention then create an enabling environment for business to thrive because if businesses and industries thrive they will generate more employment opportunities more than any government can.” He stated during an interactive session with students of tertiary institutions in the state recently.
Industry watchers opined that the promise of employment generation will resonate with the voting populace and that can spur them to vote for him in the forthcoming elections.
“Unemployment is a big problem in the country,” stated Ikechukwu Eze, an IT Consultant based in Lagos adding that “Any candidate that can convincingly demonstrate how to solve the problem whether at the local, state or federal government level will surely enjoy the buy-in of voters. The only challenge bigger than that of unemployment in the country is power,” he stated.
Industry watchers opined that promises of employment generation will connect the Ambode brand with the electorate in Lagos. They argued that like consumers, voters are after the brand offerings and what they stand to get from the brand provided that the brand is trust worthy.
Those who share this belief hinge their argument on the fact that the APC in Lagos has consistently delivered on a good number of its campaign promises over the years. Many are wont to believe that with the performance of the two previous governors of the state who incidentally have endorsed the Ambode brand; the APC candidate come head and shoulder above other candidates in the Lagos Governorship election.
Evaluation of Alternatives
Marketing professionals are in unison on the five steps of the consumer decision-making process and listed them thus: Identification of unsatisfied need or want, identification of alternatives to need or want, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision and post purchase evaluation.
Marketing practitioners who spoke to THISDAY said on the basis of evaluating the alternatives to the APC candidates in the forthcoming elections, the APC candidate has an advantage over his competitors.
According to Feyipitan, “Ambode’s civil governor of Lagos State in the next elections. The fact that he has worked in almost all the gamut of service experience gives him an edge over the alternatives in the race for who becomes the governor of the state government means he will hit the grounds running. I am not taking anything away from Jimi Agbaje; the thinking is that all the laudable infrastructure projects that Fashola started stand a better chance of being completed with an Ambode as governor than with any other person as they may not be given priority.”
As the campaigns continue in the state, marketing practitioners have argued that when voters vote for a candidate in the forthcoming elections, they will not just be voting for policies or party affiliation, but also for personality, attitude, appearance and belief – that is, their choice candidate’s brand personality. They argued that no candidate is perfect when it comes to their policies, strategies or personal lives and added that, it is branding and political marketing that will influence the voters.
Giving the sophistication of the Lagos society, it is obvious that digital media and
branding will play a strong role in how the next governor of the state would emerge.