The recently concluded general elections in Singapore (GE2020) was a master class in marketing and public relations. Contesting political parties employed different strategies to connect with voters, with varying levels of success. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) appeared to have lost a bit of support while the Workers’ Party (WP), one of the more established opposition parties, gained more. There’s just so much to talk about from a marketing perspective. Here are some key takeaways from GE2020.
A quick note: TLBB doesn’t support or endorse any political party. The following are just some observations that were made in the context of branding/marketing.
1. Know your audience
This election was held amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, which meant that many traditional campaigning methods, like physical rallies, were not allowed. Social media would play a very important role in reaching out to voters, especially the younger ones. Most, if not all, contesting parties had some form of social media presence. However, not all of them were successful in using it to establish a connection with voters. The WP had the most success because they had a deep understanding of their target audience – young voters.
One of the first things you need to do at the start of a marketing campaign is to establish who your target audience is. Find out what sort of content they like and figure out a way to present your key message in that format. To target Netflix-watching young voters, WP released a dramatic trailer on social media, teasing the announcement of their GE2020 candidates.
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The actual announcement video was just as well-shot. It is also visually different from the usual campaign videos that have been released over the years.
Many Singaporeans were so impressed by the quality of the video, that they shared it on their own social media feeds. This gave WP significant online traction early into the campaign period.
What does this tell us?
Simply having a social media account for your brand isn’t enough. You need to upload content that resonates with your target audience and captures their attention. You will only find out what they like by observing their social media behaviour and staying up to date with the latest trends.
2. Stay connected with customers
PAP’s weaker performance in GE2020 has been attributed to their loss of the youth vote. Some experts have pointed out that many young voters are looking beyond economic issues. The PAP’s campaign, which was highly focused on jobs, probably did not give sufficient attention to the issues that they care about.
As marketers, we can view this as a cautionary tale about losing touch with our customers. Customers will only stay with brands for as long as they add value to their lives. That is why it is important to stay connected with customers, get feedback and work on improving your product or service. Once you stop listening, once you stop providing value, customers will switch to another brand.
3. Inauthenticity can break your brand
Ivan Lim was initially fielded as a candidate by the PAP but withdrew due to a controversy involving a Facebook post criticising him of arrogant and elitist behaviour. The post was made by someone who had worked with him while they were in the military. Online backlash against Ivan Lim eventually resulted in his withdrawal.
Authenticity is essential to gaining any kind of trust and support, whether it’s from voters or consumers. Singaporeans don’t take kindly to political candidates that they perceive to be disingenuous. Likewise, customers won’t continue buying from you if they have a negative impression of your brand. Building authenticity begins with practising what you preach. For example, if you claim to be a brand that supports environmental sustainability, you should have appropriate ‘green’ practices in place. This explains why brands like Patagonia will go so far as to stop selling their products to certain customers in order to stay true to their brand ethos.
Just as politicians need to work for the support of voters, brands need to work for their customers. As long as brands listen to consumers, and constantly work to provide value and stay relevant, they will be able to capture and hold on to the hearts of their customers.