Now that signs of preparations for next (2015) general elections are fast becoming apparent, as an ardent follower of your insightful submissions on this column and also someone ‘with an eye’ on involvement in Nigerian politics, your insight on an issue is essential at this time. Please enlighten my prospective campaign staffers and I on the applicability of marketing in efforts for my electioneering campaign, which I intend launching once the time is right – J. Bassey
Processes of marketing are directly applicable to what it takes to effectively carry out campaigns for elective posts. Think about all those steps or techniques required to ‘swing’ prospective buyers to favour sale offerings (e.g. personal selling, sales promotion) for products or services as part of marketing process. The candidate comprises the ‘product’ in this regard, mirroring his or her personal qualities and what the accompanying manifesto or programme is all about.
In line with this definition of marketing I often adhere to – “The management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer” and my ‘self composed’ version, “All that should be needed to favourably make product or service available to the end-user” – it is easy to discern the close relationship between marketing and what electioneering campaign is all about. A look at electioneering, when defined, strengthens this reasoning going by these definitions – “Persuasion of voters in a political campaign” or “a set of strategies and tools to trace and study public opinion before and during an election campaign, to develop campaign communications and to assess their impact”. This is marketing, but with offering different from products or services most of us are used to.
Without getting into details of what it represents, just as obtainable in marketing communications, electioneering communication is also reflective of communication publicly disseminated through use of television (the terrestrial form), radio, cable television system, newspaper, magazine, direct mail, telephone, and even the satellite system. This is why it now seems a common pattern in electioneering campaign to find candidates and/or their election agents prod prospective voters by means of telephone. The same holds for lobbing this same prospective ‘consumers’ using short messaging services (SMS) and emails.
Aside basic marketing skills which are required in the process of campaigning, these tools of marketing (especially in the areas of personal selling and sales promotion) are obviously vital to it – Posters, badges, rallies (an event), speeches (just like sales pitches or presentations), and a platform (as obtainable at experiential/activation programmes or promotional concerts). Similarly, efforts of sales persons at making promises about products or services in order to convince the prospective customers tally with what occurs in the process of convincing prospective voters at electioneering campaigns.
To further demonstrate this link of marketing with electioneering, remember that while business concerns do not leave the issue of promotion (e.g. announcing a new product) to chance, the place of ‘communication process’ within your campaign plan serves the same purpose. To foster a successful outcome of a product development process, most business concerns tend to create an entirely separate framework or structure for this. Something similar holds for your electioneering effort – A campaign organisation.
Now there is an obvious deviation from the past in Nigeria, in which there had been an impression that candidates did not care about who was going to vote for them, but who was going to count the votes – Going by the strong presence of a ‘puppeteer’ with strings attached to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – I may have to sway with the time. Dust-up my ten part package on electioneering campaign (grudgingly kept away all this while) for deployment as prospective candidates are now evidently warming up for the 2015 elections.
With growing confidence that votes are beginning to count in Nigeria, along with the country’s immense human capital potentials, I am convinced there are Nigerians with skills in organising electioneering campaigns. This is the time for them to come forth to exhibit their prowess, and also band together as a professional group. The American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) started the same way.
As electioneering campaign (a political process) and its relationship with marketing remains the subject here, it will be completely out of place not to state a phenomenon indicative of the ‘marriage’ between politics and marketing or the application of the marketing concept in politics – Political marketing.
Political marketing is derived from applying typical input of commercial marketplace in a political terrain. In other words, “the application of marketing principles and procedures in political campaigns by various individuals and organizations”. Political marketing is marketing designed to influence consumers about political issues, especially candidates for public office, or public issues. In political marketing, marketing techniques are applied to promote a concept or an idea, and then motivate people to vote for that idea, rather than a specific product or service (as often the case for a commercial marketing situation).
It is proper to hold the view that political marketing improves the quantity and quality of information that flows from the electorate to parties and candidates (fallout of electioneering campaigns), thus making them more sensitive and responsive to voters’ needs. These are reasons why Lees-Marshment (an expert in the field) sees it as representing “the permeation of the political arena by marketing”. This indeed substantiates any assumption that there is always marketing in electioneering campaign.