by Alistair Mackay (@almackay) Political parties really don’t get after-sale marketing. The moment immediately after an election is critical for the establishment of trust between the party and those who voted for it. Voters (first-time or swing voters, in particular) need to feel reassured that they made the right choice.
Just as with consumers after having made an important and expensive purchase, emotions run high after an election and the risk of “buyer’s remorse” is real. This is exactly when political parties should do all that they can to eradicate any lingering uncertainty on the part of their voters, make their supporters feel proud and that they did the right thing by choosing them.
And, yet, in the weeks following our 2014 election, we saw squabbles, infighting and finger-pointing. Mamphela Ramphele announced that she would not be going to Parliament — removing what was for many voters their sole reason for voting Agang. It was then reported that she was suspended from the party, and counter-reported that those who had called for her suspension were expelled. She has since officially withdrawn from party politics.
There may be many things that Agang voters may be feeling right now, but reassured is almost certainly not one of them.
Similarly quick to disappoint
The DA has been similarly quick to disappoint, with the almost immediate resignation of its popular parliamentary leader, and an ugly and vicious public spat involving the party leader in the media. After winning over 31% of the province, its Gauteng Premier candidate abandoned the province for Cape Town.
The ANC hasn’t melted down in quite so spectacular a fashion, but has done little to show leadership or gratitude to the voters who returned them to government. Under-performing minsters have been reappointed to Cabinet positions, Nkandla remains ignored and evictions have followed the election — in both DA and ANC provinces.
Citizens’ experience of political parties either ends or falls apart once they have made that X on the ballot. Instead of reassurance, voters get dirty laundry and broken promises. I have no doubt this is partially responsible for the high levels of apathy and disillusionment that many voters feel. And from a political branding point of view, it is a colossal stuff-up.
Marketing doesn’t end
In the private sector, good marketers understand that the moment of purchase is only part of the customer’s journey with a brand. Marketing doesn’t end once the customer parts with his or her money, because those who have chosen to buy a certain brand are much more likely to pay attention to that brand in future.
They are the low-hanging fruit, and winning them over to repeat purchase is much easier than earning the attention of new potential customers all the time.
It’s also only after the moment of purchase that a customer really begins to build a relationship with a brand. While they are using a product, they are building a perception of its quality. While they are telling their friends about the purchase, they are listening to their friends’ opinions of the brand. And while they are calling the support centre for help with setting up or to report a problem, they are establishing a relationship that can either build powerful loyalty or make them resolve never to buy from that brand again.
Powerful brand love
Great marketers seize the post-purchase moment as an opportunity to secure powerful brand love.
Even the most steel-hearted among us can’t help but feel warm, fuzzy and special upon opening a package from Yuppiechef, for example. It’s wrapped in brightly coloured gift paper; there’s a cute little fridge magnet; and a quirky, silly and adorable card, thanking you for shopping with them. It’s hand-written and personal, too [I’m been wanting to buying something from Yuppiechef for ages just to experience all of this — ed-at-large].
Yuppiechef went to all of that marketing effort after you had already purchased the product, because it knows that you’ll feel special, tell others about it and that it will be top of mind when you want to buy kitchen products again.
It’s an experience
Car brands do it, too. Both Volkswagen and BMW (and perhaps the others do, too) make you feel like a kid at Christmas when you buy one of their cars. The whole thing is draped in cloth and topped with a giant bow that you pull off dramatically to reveal your new favourite toy. Sometimes a bottle of bubbly is popped.
It’s an experience, not just a hand-over of paperwork and keys.
Elections are the all-important ‘moment of purchase’ in political branding. It’s the moment when voters make their decision. If political marketers spent the month after an election ensuring that their voters felt good about themselves for having chosen them, they wouldn’t face such a long, hard battle to win over people’s trust again during the next election.
They could learn a thing or two about customer retention from the Yuppiechefs and BMWs of this world.
Alistair Mackay (@almackay) is marketing manager and head of content at Yellowwood, (@askYellowwood) a leading marketing strategy and brand development consultancy. He has experience both as a brand strategist and as the digital media manager for the Democratic Alliance, and believes that innovative, insightful and generous marketing is both good for business and social change in South Africa. He contributes the monthly “Brand Politics” column, exploring lessons brands can learn and apply from politics, to MarkLives.
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