Uno Pace, City Centre – A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity of attending a public lecture by Dr Jennifer Lees-Marshment, a Political Marketing guru from the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
Entitled “Political Marketing: Principles and Applications”, the public lecture was a stepping stone for the nascence of this new field in our local academia. In fact, the composition of the participants and their interactive responses during the Q & A session evinced the sophistication of Malaysia’s political society today.
Introduction to Political Marketing
Political marketing is how politicians adopt marketing strategies to effectively achieve their objectives. The main objective is to gain the people’s support and retain political power or public posts. Political Marketing does not only involve Political Communication or Political Advertising but it also encompasses market intelligence research and other salient product marketing methodologies. Hence, we could also view politics in the marketing sense such as following;
- The ‘salesmen’ or ‘product ambassadors’ AS the politicians
- The ‘customers’ AS the people, be it voters or non-voters
- The ‘brand’ AS the political party / government
- The ‘product’ AS the policy / principle / doctrine / philosophy / project / programme
When a politician or the government plans to propose a political product or policy to the public, market intelligence research is utilized to identify the public’s preferences by clusters rather than in general. This helps the politician to incorporate appropriate market targeting, branding in devising successful political marketing strategies. The findings of the research becomes the blueprint for their strategies.
However, a politician does not necessarily need to make decisions solely based on the peoples’ interests or demands. The decision-making process also requires a wise leadership jurisdiction, by taking into account all the relevant fronts of an issue. (Of course, we know that decisions made by politicians are influenced by various variables such as his personal interest or the party’s). However, the politician must also know how to maintain the symbiotic relationship between party and the general public/voters.
Dr Lees-Marshment had also elaborated some tips on effective Political Marketing with these key points;
- How to conduct research
- The public should be consulted but only in a particular way
- Market analysis does change the product, but not 100% (Product is improvised/ adapted)
- Designing the political product
- Using marketing to lead and achieve change
- Positioning, branding and authenticity
- The party and internal marketing
- Communicating (Interacting with the public through traditional and new media/technology)
- Government and delivery (Do not bite off more than you can chew)
Political Marketing Research in Malaysia
The Political Marketing course has yet to be offered in any public universities in Malaysia. When queried, Dr Lees-Marshment suggested that the subject may be included in the syllabuses of politics, communication or even as one of the elective courses in the Humanities department.
In the real life political scenario, even though market researches have been carried out to explore the needs of the society, there is an obstacle that has yet to be surpassed which is the problems of co-operation between politicians and researchers or academicians. This was one of the causes that I tweeted “For intellectuals and leaders to work together in solving the problems of society , it requires trust and the abandonment of ego and narcissism“(2nd Mar 2009).
Other than attitude matters, not having a good grasp of both theoretical and experiential knowledge has become a hindrance for politicians to make full use of the research findings in their political strategies. Whereas academicians or researchers who do not work within the political organisation would propose too idealistic solutions which are not in tune with realtime politics.
Some political parties or politicians would prefer to depend on consultant agencies. These agencies tend to offer corporate-like measures in political marketing which overlook certain aspects of political sensitivities. Even though the situation does not apply to all politicians but the prevalence of this detrimental outcome would eventually take its toll upon the politicians and the organisation they uphold for.