By Lyson Sibande
Let me start like this…
Politics is marketing: political parties are the companies, political strategists are the marketers, political candidates are the products, the voters are the customers, the political domain is the market, the votes are the revenue or sales generated from a product and the money that a customer pays for the product are the ballots.
Now, come and walk with me …..
In the field of marketing, the first and most fundamental concept that you learn at the very beginning is the market mix. It has four elements of which, the product is the most important one. All other constituent elements of the mix including promotion, pricing and place and distribution networks only exist to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in the selling of the product.
But the product has a life cycle which is very important because it determines the product’s market position. Competent marketing strategists consider the stage of the life of the product in the cycle to determine strategies that could successfully keep the product on the market as it faces competition from substitute and alternative products on one hand and the challenge of meeting the evolving needs of customers on the other.
Now, the product life cycles has stages which include; the introduction, growth, maturity and the decline. In the interest of this post and the scope of discussion, I will not remind us what happens in all those stages except the decline stage. At this stage, the product is no longer appealing to the customer and its sales drop drastically and persistently, among other factors.
Given the characteristic of a product on the decline stages, market strategists usually advise management of the company to take the product out of the market. It is replaced with a new product that has more appealing attributes and benefits that would satisfy customer needs. Or, they might advise management to improve on the features of the declining product so that it is rebranded for new appeal and satisfaction to customer needs.
Now, coming back to politics, I look at President Mutharika as a product that has finally reached its final stage of the lifecycle. Mutharika is no longer an appealing brand and cannot generate the needed sales or the needed votes. The customers or voters are not willing to spend their money or ballots on such a product or candidate anymore because they do not trust the product to meet their expectations and needs. The voters on the market are now looking for more appealing products or candidates worthy their ballots whom they can trust to satisfy their needs.
Such being the case, DPP strategists need to advise the party to either rebrand Mutharika or take him out of market to replace him with another candidate who will be more appealing and inspiring to regain voters’ confidence. Unfortunately it is too late to rebrand Mutharika as fresh elections might be held in less than 5 months. Additionally, the Mutharika brand is so damaged that it would only take heavenly intervention to bring the brand back into the lifecycle. The only viable option is to take Mutharika brand out of the market and bring in a new candidate that is already in the second or third stages of the product lifecycle. It would be very challenging and strategically careless to bring in a totally new candidate on the market as there will still not be adequate time to promote the candidate and voters might still not have confidence in a candidate that is totally new.
In modern marketing approach, you don’t impose a product on the market and expect customers to buy it. The approach is customer-oriented. In other words, you don’t force a political candidate on the voters. The choice of a political candidate must be voter-oriented. You first do a political analysis with whatever tools available to assess the landscape and the aspirations of the people, and then you give them the type of a candidate who will meet the voters’ needs and aspirations. When the voters look at the candidate they must see a solution not a problem.
Let me finishing by making it clear that Mutharika is no longer an appealing candidate because DPP failed him. Since 2014, the DPP’s PR and Communication Teams and Cadets left Mutharika extremely vulnerable to negative public perception and propaganda. Mutharika’s weaknesses and failures were left open for public criticism without any tactical attempts to protect his image. Either, the PR and Communication Teams and cadets were just incompetent and clueless in matters of political spinning and image handling or they were just indifferent and inadequately motivated. Whichever way, they contributed a lot to the irreparable damage done the image of Mutharika and now the party must let him go or keep him as candidate and lose.