“Marketing is not a race to add more features for less money; rather, it is our quest to make change on behalf of those we serve – and we do it by understanding the irrational forces that drive each of us” – Seth Godin
Many a time, companies define their indices for assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of their products – which usually include performance of the product, durability and reliability of the product, conformance to international and local standards, specification of the product, serviceability, aesthetics, among others. However, customers’ perception of the products, which largely informs their decision to purchase them or not, is the key driving force behind sales of the product.
According to a news article published on 4 December 2020 on myjoyonline.com, former President John Dramani Mahama asserted that the savvy use of social media by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) cost them (NDC) dearly in the 2016 presidential election. He (ex-president) further indicated that: “They used a lot of propaganda on social media to tar us with the brush of corruption, incompetence and telling a lot of tales that I was the owner of DKM…… And the mistake we made was we said ‘O but Ghanaians will know this is not true’ and so we didn’t really come out to defend and explain, so we just left. And you would assume that these are things people would realise are not true; but you know, somehow, perception is larger than reality, so…”
Conversely, in marketing perception is not just larger than reality; it actually is the reality. One of the greatest mistake stakeholders commit is when they make marketing decisions on assumptions and past experiences without reference to data from marketing research. It is even worse when political marketers make unsubstantiated assumptions instead of acting on data. This is because in political marketing money, time and emotions are heavily invested; hence, one cannot afford to cause a blunder.
As such, political parties need to carefully consider consumer thoughts and perceptions – which are mainly derived from marketing research, before they embark on their next line of action. However, in many organisations, top management members usually appear to have a vague and amateurish understanding of what their customers need and want. This is because they sit in the comfort of their offices and boardrooms and assume the needs of their customers, instead of going to the ground to collect primary data from them. Interestingly, no one has ever been able to build an outstanding business with this approach.
This is no different from what was observed in the just-ended presidential and parliamentary elections, wherein many parliamentary candidates lost their seats. Even though most of those candidates are intelligent and competent in the political arena, they were not voted in by their constituents. While some are asking critical questions about their defeat, others are apportioning blames. Such is the nature of the game.
It is about time political parties viewed themselves as organisations that invest a lot of resources in their candidate whom them are selling as a product to their customers (voters). Just like many organisations, they also channel funds into the traditional media, social media and direct marketing, with the hope that their campaign message will resonate with the people. In the end, the customer (voter) decides on the product to choose.
The most intriguing part is that the newly-empowered customers (voters) have noticed the interminable display of options at their disposal. As such, they go in for products (parliamentary candidates) they want and think will benefit them, not what the parties offer them. Customers buy products which provide solutions to their marketing problems before they consider other emotional benefits attached to the product. By extension, parliamentary candidates should endeavour to place value on the basic needs of their constituents before attempting to provide solutions for non-existing problems. Their quest to do so will reduce instances of ‘listening gap’ – one of the gaps in the model of service quality is the discrepancy between customer expectation and a company’s perception of customer expectation.
There is little doubt that many organisations fail to accurately determine customer expectations, and therefore assume and provide solutions of their choice to them. However, it is imperative for organisations to note that when they consider a problem which needs solution, they should find out if it is actually a problem the customer acknowledges needs fixed. Other than that, the customer will become dissatisfied and reject their product irrespective of their level of investment.
For instance, a constituency in dire need of good roads may not care about the number of schools one puts up for them. Likewise, a constituency that expects public toilets may not really appreciate free food or water. That is why marketing should focus on understanding customers’ world-view and desires in order to connect with them. Every need is exclusive to each customer (voter).
In a quest to protect products (parliamentary candidates) which political parties deem excellent on the market, extra care should be taken so that customers (voters) do not feel those products are forced down their throat. More often than not, organisations (political parties) focus more on their products (parliamentary candidates) and ignore the long-term needs of their customers (constituents), amounting to what is termed ‘marketing myopia’.
Marketing myopia is the failure and narrow-minded approach of marketing which focuses only on the product while completely ignoring the ling-term goals such as customer needs, demand and customer satisfaction. It also occurs when organisations (political parties) focus on their competitors’ offerings (opposition candidates). Comparing your product attributes (candidate characteristics) to your competitors’ can make your offering appear superior; however, customers (voters) are mostly not interested in that. That’s why it is essential for organisations (political parties) to concentrate most on customer satisfaction, not sales and stuffing customers (voters) with their products (candidates).
In addition to the intraparty post-mortems various political parties will conduct on their parliamentary performances in the just-ended elections, I would suggest that going forward they take time to understand the actual needs of their customers (constituents) and provide befitting products they believe will help solve their problems. It is not about how well the company thinks its products perform, it’s about how good the customer thinks their products are.
I wish the President-elect and all Members of Parliament-elect the best of luck.