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Saturday, May 26, 2012

#hougangbyelection Brand Management Flaws, Exposed

A lot of people may have boiled down certain observations in the by-elections of the constituency of Hougang to simple human errors of slight, here and there. But really, there is a much larger picture that needs to be examined, and that is how campaign management failed to present or maintain a solid brand image.


I am a management person at heart so when synchronicity of a brand is poorly managed, or when PR is done in a slipshod manner, I inwardly cringe. Also, I watch TV shows on fictional political campaigns; that probably sounds illegitimate as credibility but after just watching a certain 'expert' on CNA talk about her thoughts on the by-elections, I think I can do a better job by writing this piece for you and qualifying what I have written in the paragraph above.


Let's be fair and first analyse the incumbent party, Workers' Party, and its failures in campaign management. It is not so much in the campaign week itself that they failed in, marketing-wise, but the way PR was handled during the case of the disappearing MP, Yaw Shin Leong, which led to his expulsion from the party and thus the by-election. The party leaders took too long to step in and do damage control. They remained silent while inwardly they were probably planning what the next step was when Yaw's case came to light.


But that is not the way it should have been managed. In the interim, before the press conference announcing Yaw's expulsion and the plans to conduct another round of voting were announced, they should have stepped in, gone in front of the media, to do damage control. Silence leads to speculation among the people. Do not allow speculation to go out of control, because that is poor brand management. If you are selling integrity - something all political parties should be - then silence is -not- integrity. Imagine if a large corporation is rumoured to be, say, polluting its nearby waters. Before the rumours spin out of control, step into the light which is the media, and assert the brand's values. Even if the pollution rumours are true, you prevented gossip from stewing and taking root in the stakeholders. Shallow-rooted sentiments are easy to sway; deep rooted mistrust is not.


As for the PAP, which has not been able to win the constituency of Hougang for two decades, where do I even start? Okay, let us say that you did not study marketing in school at all. The simple logic in marketing is that, what you say has got to be what people get. Otherwise, it causes what marketing textbooks call 'cognitive dissonance'. Let's examine where the PAP has failed and caused cognitive dissonances.


Desmond Choo, the PAP representative for the by-elections, said to the public, "I am my own man." Unfortunately what he said is not what the Hougang folks got. He was accompanied often by bigwigs in the party that included even the Prime Minister. If you needed PM Lee and DPM Teo Chee Hean to help, then do not promise people you are your own man. It causes cognitive dissonance. Simple marketing principle, no?


Next, you say that the by-election should be one that focuses on local issues in Hougang, not national issues. Why then is the print media you hand out to Hougang residents chock-full of nationwide initiatives? Again, not saying what you mean or meaning what you say.


If you wanted to say in print and to the media what you were doing, it should perhaps been words like, "The nation's resources always here for you," or "Vote Choo, a man endorsed by your ministers." And suchlike, (probably needs some copywriting truncation as those are too many words to fit in). Or you could have done something like say, hey, we already say own man, local issues so let's not talk about NCMPs, and make sure the ministers don't come to Hougang.


I could go on but I have mentioned and expounded on two campaign management failures by the PAP already, versus WPxs one public relations faux pas. And I wrote this too late, the Workers' Party already won by the time I got down to penning my opinions.


In short, we have a serious lack of expertise in brand management in our political scene. The ruling party treats the nation as a corporation, so then, do marketing management likewise, PAP. As for the opposition parties, do take a look at how one of my characters on TV, Eli Gold, does crisis management.


Typed on my tablet, excuse spelling errors please :)


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