My ears have never been plugged to politics due to the fighting, teeth biting, banter and propaganda that papered the political terrain. I marveled as the African world, both old and young participated and hailed one man like it was the second coming, they had his shirt, caps, pictures and so on. It took me time to grasp the fact that he was really vying for USA presidential sit, the dream country of every Nigerian teenager as so I was. Obama was his name, a name everyone was accustomed with; his mark was everywhere, along the streets, in schools, on radio and TV just name it. I was certain if the whole world had a franchise in this campaign. Nigerians, no Africans would troop into USA to exercise such. How did one man, who by all means should be the underdog in the election become the biggest name in election history, how did he garner the total love of his people and how did he make the haters and firm believers compromise their beliefs?
President Buhari, the 4 day old Nigerian President has effortlessly made such ground breaking history here in Nigeria. His never die hard attitude and patience but proactive nature has undoubtedly made him the biggest name in Nigeria politics and unarguably Africa. I am still fazed with the same questions, how did this common men become uncommon, how has President Buhari a supposedly no certificate holder, change the predictable pattern of Nigeria’s election result? What happened to their opponents?
Obviously these men are products of political marketing, taking themselves, their political intentions and campaign as a product to be marketed to the consumers, in this case the voters. Every marketer designing a product campaign is concerned with one factor the consumers/customers likewise every political candidate is concerned with. One factor, the people (electorates). It goes without saying that the difference in your product quality from your competitors will determine it sales and customer advocacy and this is how every political campaign is also perceived.
What did they do?
Certainly they both had a marketer’s mindset and as stated above treated themselves as a product, their campaign strategies had a marketing approach. Unlike product marketing where comparative competitive marketing (MICROSOFT & APPLE) might be dangerous, in politics you don’t have a choice you have to determine how the public will perceive your opponents and make them play by your tune.
1) Change theme: for Obama the failed Bush administration was a means to preach and make the public identify him as an agent of change. In truth, he as a person signified various aspect of change to an average American, his skin color, ideology, party, policies etc. In Nigeria the major change factor was the failed state of the country, change in power from the single ruling party PDP since inception and change in the ability to vote out a sitting government/president. Truthfully, the change concept would never sell if the opponents or political season are functioning properly. The change agent must paint a picture of failure or lapses before he can identify himself as the agent of change in the minds of the people.
2) Know your target audience: President Buhari knew his targeted audience, he had campaign strategy for each audience, when creating an ad copy I look for a general theme that permits various campaign concepts in targeting the various audiences. Change is an influential theme behind a product, for children and poor family he had a campaign to appeal to them, staging himself as a warrior against poverty and corruption, for the unemployed youth he had a different campaign positioning, for the policy makers whose voice have not been heard with the theme of change he positioned himself as a man that would listen to everyone (I belong to everybody, I belong to nobody).
3) Interact with your audience: the dream of every marketer is to create an efficient way through which his customers can interact. President Buhari was not short on this, he created a volunteer platform, call for donation and support and he attended a lot of public speaking events and lectures in various universities and offered the youth opportunity to interact with him through this platform. Once a picture was shown of a man and President Buhari in tears, after the man, a low class earner asked to donate his widows might towards his campaign.
4) Emotional campaign: you just wouldn’t help but have an emotional attachment towards Buhari’s campaign, from the crying man who wanted to donate,for him as a person who couldn’t afford a third time campaign ticket, to his personal branding from a fierce general to a family man with a picture of him and his family used during the campaign. Every factor of Buhari was used as a means to market him emotionally.
5) Determine your opponent’s steps: President Buhari was proactive and consistent always a step ahead of his opponent, he started his campaign on time and with speed to the shock of his opponents, standing out with one word change and he never changed this theme, even before the campaign the change slogan was already grounded and that determined the campaign slogan Jonathan had to use and how he would strategize. It also made Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign inconsistent and preoccupied with changing the idea of the public that there was no need for change but transformation or moving forward (strong words but inconsistent and it was too late the picture has already been created).
6) Social Media: President Obama in 2008 was the pioneer of political democracy on social media and in 2012 campaign unlike McCain, Romney was not a greener in the tools of social media but was not grounded in this as Obama, spending $4.3million to Obamas $47million. President Buhari also took advantage of social media, from Instagram, Twitter to Facebook. His pictures on Instagram were very engaging I must say and his PR was highly effective, they kept his audience up to date with his activities on their various social media platform and that created a continuous stream of engagement.
7) Branding: President Buhari is a military and Hausa man, but we were awed by his various campaign pictures, where he wore suit and a different glass rim, he appeared prim and prop like a sound educated English man. He also took a positioning like he was already the President of Nigeria, with the flag everywhere around him. Some call this strategy fake it until they believe it but I see it as brand positioning.
As a marketer I appreciate the steps Nigeria election campaigns have taken in reaching the electorate, indeed this is a starting point in ensuring that the power truly belongs to the people as opposed to the previous nonchalant attitude of political contenders during campaign. If you don’t market and effectively brand your product nobody will buy it, must now be the watch word for every aspiring political figure. I applaud President Buhari and his campaign strategists for delving into the art of political marketing, in truth time would not permit me to discuss the multitude ways through which his campaign took a marketing approach. Finally I tip my hat to President Obama for being a true agent of change.