Marketing a Party Leader


A major political party in this country is faced with a crisis again, with its leadership not being marketable at all, in the Local Government elections on the 10th of this month.

It has lost the election dramatically. The leader is not a "Marketable "leader with, their own party members beginning to make statements. This shows an erosion of their voter base dramatically.

The only way for the party to resurrect itself, is to remove the leader. However, with the support of some of his party cohorts, he stays put and is still trying to survive.

The crisis is likely to go on to its bitter end, whatever that end would be. It is the party membership which has to decide whether to retain the same leader or have a new leader, and what is desirable is to see an effective end of an opposition party capable of being the so-called watchdog, and the government to be prepared, in a call by the electorate, to govern successfully.

The absence of a charismatic second rung leadership, in view of this crisis, is adding to this predicament. It will be of use to view this from a marketing point of view, because the rebels in the party have claimed the leader is not marketable.

The field of marketing has become a part and parcel of the electoral process of most democracies in the world, where professional marketers formulate marketing plans for political parties or for their leaders. It’s a known fact that leaders in our country too, have assigned the planning of their political campaigns to renowned international marketing companies in the political field. The STP which stands for Segmenting, Targeting and Positioning strategies in marketing in commercial marketing, is being accepted and adopted in the political field as well, to capture and increase market share, Viz. to increase votes. In short, political marketing has become a field for the specialist, while commercial marketing has borrowed substantially from military studies. The SLPP has a leader who has first hand experiences in this field. It is made use of to comprehend the people’s expectations and effectively communicate with voters’ demands, aspirations and expectation, which could be formulated through market intelligence and market research. The most important aspect is to inform the voters of the political product package the party has to offer through its leader. If a political party or a political leader adopts the marketing philosophy, it becomes a market oriented party responding to the demands of the electorate and formulating marketing policies accordingly. Trying to sell an unwanted product to the people is not in keeping with the very definition of marketing.

"Marketing is the management process that identifies, anticipate and satisfies customer requirements profitably –"The Chartered Institute of Marketing"

This definition of marketing implies the responsiveness to customer requirements as paramount. One has to clearly distinguish the difference between sales orientation and market orientation. This suggests the manner in which leaders and parties behave, and should change leading to following public opinion. As much as customer satisfaction is at the heart of any business effort as a means of obtaining customer support, satisfaction of the electorate, is the key to obtaining their support for a political party, in the market orientation and sales orientation of its leader.

The agenda adopted by the Prime Minister is a proven failure for over thirty years now. This has harmed the reputation of the PM while the other leader, ex-President, is responding with a different agenda, that seems to be what the majority of the electorate accepts now. The PM, as a "Market leader", according to marketing parlance, is not in tune with the peoples’ perceptions. Therefore, a radical "re- positioning of the image of the P.M’s image, failed image, is a sine-qua-non. The lukewarm concurrence expressed when faced with the success of the other’s strategy is not strong and strategic strong enough to alter the perceptions the electorate has already formed about the PM. The first big mistake many leaders fail to ask is what mistakes I am making in their book have I done? "The battle of the Mind" -Al Ries and Jack Trout, describes how positioning is used as a communication positioning strategists in Srilanka. Thirdly, the strategists have to explore whether it is not possible, and if not, to create nationalism, in the PM. These three factors overshadow other social, economic strategies which might have been used effectively in a peaceful Srilanka.

In the present context, they have only a marginal effect, where fighting terrorism and winning the dominant perception is embedded in the voter’s mind. Therefore, narrow and mean strategies, such as ridiculing the war effort, was only to be counterproductive to the image of the leader, better than lack of wisdom. A solid candidate answering better than of the market leader has to be found to change the perception, because it is where the head of state as market leader has to be provided to change perception, because it is where the Head of State as market leader has gone ahead in leaps and bounds, even eroding the traditional vote bank of the main opposition party.

Analysts illustrate certain aspects of leadership with "Newton’s Cradle". The leader is the cross beam. The leader pulls one of the members away from the others and gets him to trigger off a change. That’s like pulling one of the steel balls and holding it there, the steel balls of the team, where they will all function with superb team dynamics steel balls, and holding it there. Then when the leader lets him go, he expects him to return to the rest of the team solving superb dynamics quickly into the other members solving the current problems, achieving team goals, and making changes. On the contrary, he just bangs against the other team member closer to him, and the other bangs the next team member, all really happens next to him, and so on.

This one team member bangs into the others and they swing back and forth, bumping in .This is mistaking individual loyalty to team building.

It is immaterial whether it is the same leader or new leader the party chooses. The party leader, with his huge success in the war front, has been able to obscure the negative and weak aspects of his leadership. Therefore, nothing short of an effective "frontal attack" (in marketing parlance), which means attacking the market leader’s weaknesses rather than strengths, will make the leader to be the "Market leader". As hinted earlier in this note, a far reaching paradigm shift in the party is necessary, whether to persist with the present leader or have a new one. The opposition leader, whoever it may be, should generate enough fire power in a frontal attack; else it will be disastrous like what just happened on Feb, 10th 2018. The flank attacks mostly concentrate on weaknesses such as, managing the economy, law and order, corruption will be relatively ineffective in the present context, because the strength of the market leader who succeeds, one can envisage a new leader whoever may it be, to go with the present "Market Leader" opting for a "Piggy Backing" arrangement with government in the form of a national government, because one can see second rung party men who could strongly challenge the market leader.


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