If Obama can admit he ‘screwed up’, so can we
The Star Sat, 14-03-09
Marketing lessons from the world’s most successful political campaign.
WITH the coming Umno general assembly and the spectre of how elections play out in the country’s biggest political party, thoughts of what Roger Fisk, Obama’s former national events director, had to say about the politics of winning raced back to my mind. For a moment if we assume a political utopia in our midst and the next general election slated for 2012, here are some lessons I have paraphrased from the Obama campaign for our local political pundits to ponder on ...
The Younger Vote: A recent online poll by the Pulse Group, commissioned by Marketing magazine, asked 1,000 respondents in market centres if the power of youth would play a big role in the next general election. And a unanimous 96% agreed that youth will play a decisive role in the 2012 general election. The majority of the 4 million-plus citizens who were not registered as voters at the time of the last elections was in the age group between 21 and 35. Once they are convinced to be stakeholders in their political destiny, they will be the deciding vote.
Direct Talk: Obviously, nothing beats honesty and straight talk. It reveals that after all we are human. “I’m frustrated with myself, with our team. ... I’m here on television saying I screwed up,” Obama said in an interview on NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams. In reference to a couple of his key appointees, most notably former Senator Tom Daschle, Obama’s pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services, who stepped down after news broke he failed to pay nearly US$150,000 in back taxes. Even ad legend Bill Bernbach once said, “A little confession can get you a lot of compassion.”
Consistent Message: As Roger Fisk said, “We never had to wonder what our message was as Senator Obama always knew exactly what he wanted to say and where he wanted to take the country.” So flip-flopping is out, and sticking to a central core message is in. Call it brutal honesty, but the Pulse poll showed that 71% of respondents say our political players are detached from the realities of the day and what the electorate really wants.
Yesterday vs Tomorrow: 2012 will be a battle of yesterday against tomorrow and the respective ideologies. In the US elections, patriotism, experience and accomplishments were about yesterday. And “tomorrow” meant home and change. Taking a leaf out of that I’d say May 13 and communal politics are so yesterday. Tomorrow for us is about education, empowerment, openness and true independence of thought. Including inter-racial marriages.
New Media: No lengthy explanation required. John McCain does not use email. Period. The rest are in the facts: On Facebook, Obama has 2,379,102 supporters and McCain has 620,359 supporters. On MySpace, Obama has 833,161 friends and McCain 217,811 friends. On YouTube, Obama has 114,559 subscribers, McCain 28,419. And we wont even talk about Twitter!
Low Base Donors vs Money Politics: If the Obama formula of getting supporters to contribute small amounts of US$5 or US$10 to attend his rallies provided the impetus for his campaign to raise US$100mil in 11 months, the days of money politics may be over. You just cannot fight the power of the citizenry adding to the pot to fight the battle on fair ground. So maybe, we don’t have to pay people to attend rallies anymore.
Transparency: Obama launched www.recovery.gov so every American citizen can see where each dollar of the stimulus package is being spent. Citizens can track where every dollar goes on a daily basis. Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has also done transparency by declaring the assets of the state’s 10 executive councillors on their website yesterday. Assets declared include property, stocks and the amount of cash spent on official duties from March 24 last year – the date state assemblymen were sworn in – until now.
The good news is, according to the Pulse poll, 66% of Malaysians were upbeat that there was hope for change in the Malaysian political landscape in line with events that were happening around the globe, especially in the US.
Political pundits should also note that when the 1,000 respondents were asked what were their main sources of daily news, they cited newspapers (20%), television (20%), online newspapers (19%), blogs (14%), radio (13%), word of mouth (10%), RSS updates (3%) and Twitter 2%!
Harmandar Singh aka Ham (a family friend) is regional CEO of Sledgehammer Communications (M) Sdn Bhd