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“Marketing Warfare” lessons from Singapore General Elections 2011

Nomination day is just around the corner yet if you have read “Marketing Warfare” by Al Ries and Jack Trout, you could easily identify with the strategies of the various political parties.

“Marketing Warfare” isn’t about the battle of geographical conquest, but rather the battle for the positioning in the mind of the consumers. In the General Elections, the various political parties are too fighting for voters’ mindshare but for their heartshare too.

Ries and Trout highlighted that companies with various marketshare have different objectives, which is similar when you start comparing the actions of the political parties.

Party Number 1 (PAP) – Dominance of Market Share (Win as many seats to continue to be the next government)
Party Number 2  (WP) – Increase Market Share (More than 1 seats in Parliament)
Party Number 3 (SDP,NSP,SPP,RP) – Profitable Survival (Win at least 1 seat/GRC or at best more than 1/8th of the votes)

If you are number 1, you should have a defensive strategy

Ries and Trout highlighted that number 1 players should play strong defense and they are three ways which defense should be play. As a defensive player, you should attack yourself.

Wrote Ries and Trout,

Introducing products better than your existing ones pre-empts similar moves by the competition.

For the PAP, the current strategy seem to be “search and destroy” as seen in their attacking the opposition parties’ manifestos and even individuals. History has, however, shown that such that “search and destroy” mission seldom work.

Going door to door in Afghanistan or Iraq to “search and destroy” insurgents have turned US involvement into a prolong war.

The American Army took on “search and destroy” missions in the Vietnam War, hoping to search out the networks of VietCongs and North Vietnamese Army. But in the process, they destroyed many villages and that affected the hearts of the Vietnamese they were looking to win the hearts over.

From the comments or noise online, it seems like the PAP’s attacks on opposition especially to the individual level are also causing more to lose “heart” and sentiment to the incumbent political party.

What if the PAP took a different approach and attack within themselves to come up with a better policy to take Singapore and Singaporeans to the next level? Would this be a better approach to show Singaporeans that there is willingness to improve from within to provide for a better Singapore?

Number 2 – Attack, but focus on a narrow attack

Ries and Trout shared that number 2 should take on offensive strategy but not go with conventional wisdom especially if you fighting for a position within the voter’s minds and hearts.

Conventional wisdom tells us that attack should be on the weakness of the leader.

Ries and Trout, however, wrote

The challenger should seek a weakness in the leader's strength and attack on as narrow a front as possible.

WP has identified and attack the weakness in PAP’s strength by introducing a manifesto that aims to introduce a First World Parliament in Singapore.

“First World” status has always been a strength of the PAP but WP has identified that a First World Parliament with the checks and balances by opposition parties would be that weakness in strength.

WP’s attack has also narrowed their attack as narrow as they can. Their video, focused, on this and it has created a perception that WP is rather focused in its strategy to win more than 1 seats in parliament this time round.

If you are in a smaller group (no 3), guerrilla attacks might be your best option

Personally, I have yet to personal identify with RP, SPP and SDP’s strategy but NSP’s introduction of Nicole Seah falls right smack into a guerrilla attack, even by accident, as recommended by Ries and Trout for companies with the smallest share.

Wrote Ries and Trout,

Identify a segment that is small enough to defend.

Marine Parade GRC isn’t small nor is Nicole Seah but the introduction of Nicole Seah seem have to have made her the Internet darling of this elections.

The Internet isn’t small but being able to capture the hearts and mind of the Internet generation is a good enough segment to be worth defending.

It will be interested elections for 2011 and we can only look forward to whom Singaporeans will choose to lead them forward.


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