How to rebrand politicians in Nigeria- A Senator’s View

 

•  Lists advertising, advertising as two key approaches
• I respect incorruptible politicians -Akunyili 
• We are all politicians -ADVAN President
• Politicians are corrupt- Participants
• They are products of the Nigerian society -APCON 
 
Given the enormity of Nigeria’s abundant human and natural resources, the country is still plagued with issues of economic downturn, epileptic power supply, poor infrastructure, falling education standard, lack of credible elections and a host of other worrisome challenges. More bothersome is the fact that no qualitative solutions seem to be on the way to resolving these issues.
 
At every discourse pertaining to these problems, accusing fingers have always been pointed at politicians (civilians and military) who have governed this nation from independence till date. 
Ask the ordinary Nigerian why he is not having regular power supply or good roads. Chances are that he would instinctively retort thus: “Why we go get light (or good road) when dem don chop all the money.” Same cynical response (or a slightly different variation of it) is what you are likely to get when you seek his opinion on other issues (which have become too many) where the government has failed to deliver. Nigerians’ perception of their leaders and politicians has been so cruelly etched in their subconscious minds that even when those with good intentions come along, they are regarded with utmost suspicion until they prove these unapologetic cynics wrong. 
 
This public mindset was elaborately deliberated at the 16th APCON Advertising Day held recently at Lagos Sheraton Hotels and Towers The participants described politicians in various ways. Their individual classifications though preposterous tend to be laced with some measure of truth. Behold a few excerpts: ‘ liars’, ‘braggarts’, ‘corrupt’, ‘selfish’, ‘power mongers’, riggers and gerrymanders’, ‘hecklers and fighters’, ‘people who don’t keep their words’, etc. 
 
These descriptions were feedbacks of on-the-spot research conducted by Senator David Iornem, Guest Lecturer on the perception of the Nigerian politician, at the take-off of his paper presentation titled, “Re-branding the Nigerian politician – Role of Advertising and Badvertising”.
 
The Guest Lecturer stressed that research is key and should kickstart every re-branding process.
 
“Like it is done in the advertising and marketing of physical products and services, any attempt to rebrand the Nigerian politician has to be founded on thorough research. Problems may appear obvious on the surface, but when subjected to thorough research, confidence about their nature is strengthened; or it is discovered that the real issues are totally different; or it is discovered that they need modifications in their definition or classification. Thorough research is therefore, the logical beginning”, he explained. 
 
“If one says he wants to rebrand any product, it means he has issues with the current brand. In this instance we want to rebrand the Nigerian politician. How is the Nigerian politician-brand perceived?”, the Senator asked his audience.
The Minister of Information and Communications, Prof Dora Akunyili and the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) had a similar opinion that differed from the participants. 
 
At various stages of the discourse, Prof Akunyili and the APCON team argued that politicians are products of the Nigerian society, insisting therefore that the entire citizenry should be re-branded. The Moderator, Mr. Idorenyen Enang, Managing Director, Samsung Nigeria and President of Advertisers’ Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), agreed with this school of thought, but held all accountable to the politicians’ alleged guilt. 
“We all are politicians. All the names that we have labeled the politicians, 90 percent of Nigerians are bedeviled in them. Every Nigerian is a politician. Government starts from you as an individual, to government of the family, government of profession and government of religion. The problems we see are a function of the impute we see in ourselves,” he stated further.
 
Akunyili reaffirmed: “You cannot separate the Nigerian politician from the society. I respect the person who has opportunity and is not corrupt.”
In furtherance of his presentation, Senator Iornem spoke of the assessment of the typical Nigeria politician by the President of Catholic Bishops of Nigeria Conference (CBNC), Most Reverend Dr. Felix Alaba Job. The cleric summarized it thus: “Unpatriotic, lazy, greedy, and corrupt.” The clergyman’s evaluation concurred with the views of the participants.
Akunyili, while presenting her opening remarks, expressed some concern over the age-long belief that has consistently connected the politician with dishonest practices.
 
“When it’s obvious that somebody is telling a lie his contemporary says to him, ‘Don’t play politics with me’. Politicians have now been associated with lies. Politicians will tell the masses, I will build roads; I will do this, I will do that. They make bogus promises that they don’t keep. Politicians need to change the popular perception about them being liars. It is either you make promises you can keep or you don’t at all.” 
While we are assuming that this may be the general perception of the Nigerian politician, how does one go about the desirable task of re-branding the Nigerian politician?
 
Senator Iornem said you have to re-brand through two approaches. He itemized them, “Advertising and Badvertising”
 
According to him, re-branding can be done by the several stakeholders who include the Nigerian politician himself/herself, candidate handlers, political parties, civil society organizations or specific relevant government agencies such as National Orientation Agency, Federal and state Ministries of information, EFCC and ICPC.
 
He defined the essence of Advertising and Badvertising. To advertise means to make something known to the public. An ad (advertisement) includes any image, item, action, concept, or gimmick used to promote, market , or make us think favourably about a product. Badvertising, on the other hand, paints a bad or frightening picture of an action, product or service, hoping that the potential consumer or affected person will avoid that product, service, action, conduct, behaviour or experience.”
 
“Depicting a person suffering from serious lung disease as a result of smoking, or dramatizing a ghastly car accident, blaming it on over-speeding, or drunkenness are examples of badvertising. Badvertising is truth telling through contradiction,” he said. 
Iornem further said that Badvertising simply highlights the obvious consequences of wrong doing to perpetuators and discourage them from such acts. According to him Badvertising is a special way of seeing, a way of thinking. 
 
He considered three examples of Badvertising that can be utilized to rebrand the politician. 
“Project how corrupt practices can land leaders into trouble, long jail terms and the public shame that goes with it. The EFCC adverts that showed persons in handcuffs are good examples of Badvertising. Projects politicians who perpetuate electoral fraud as worst than common thieves who end up in jail; and project budget theft as worse than bank robbery.” 
 
Sen. Iornem noted that the advertising approach to rebrand the politician would aim to change his behaviour in the political process starting with electioneering, campaigning, winning elections, losing elections, holding public office, budgeting and budget spending, ethical conduct and stakeholders involvement approach in governance .
 
Observing that the rebranding and advertising concepts were developed for use in the marketing of products or services, Sen Iornem warned that as we try to adapt them for application in the context of the Nigerian politician, it is important to note some fundamental differences.
He identified the differences. “The products or services are lifeless and marketing experts do whatever they want, but politicians are living humans; products do not talk while politicians talk; products do not have feelings while politicians have feelings and products do not behave or act while politicians behave”.
 
Iornem said these differences would pose challenges in rebranding the political figures.
He observed fears of the Brand Consultant navigating the politician to well strategised direction while he takes another path and says things that are contradictory to his supposed designed Brand Personality and expectations.
 
In his own contribution the Managing Director of Samsung said without vision people perish. “Do our Politicians have marketing plans? Do they have plans at all? Great brands have resource people to manage them. They have Brand Managers,” he queried.
 
He disclosed three factors to consider in rebranding the Nigerian politician and they include: “Authenticity, Consistency and Staying Power. If a brand doesn’t have these three, it’s not a brand.”
 
“Who is better qualified to handle political adverts?”
The ADVAN President probed. 
“The reality is that political marketing is not the same thing as product marketing. In one, there is logic, and in the other, there is competence,” he noted.
The Senator recommended that just like a traveler, the politician, the political candidate marketer needs a compass – marketing research. “He or she has to carry this along with him or her so as to know when to use it and how to use it in order to get to where he or she wants to”, he emphasized.
“Politicians don’t track feelings of the people. Research is a crucial tool”, the Moderator stressed.
The combined effect of the totality of marketing activities, including research, advertising and badvertising, are indeed capable of delivering quality effects to any attempt to brand or rebrand a product, service, social cause or politicians.
 
Source: The Sun
 
 

 

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