Political Marketing's Role in the Arab World Revolutions
By Dr. Mamoun Akroush
Professor of Marketing
The current situation in the Arab world has opened many new avenues for the public and private organizations alike. The major change that has happened, as a result of the revolutions, is an unprecedented change in the Arab citizens’ (consumers’) behavior. Simply, the Arab citizen has changed forever. There has been much debate in the Arab world regarding one simple issue which is: Are the Arab revolutions born or made?
I understand that the answer to this question needs many strategic brainstorming sessions with panels of experts and politicians. Some commentators may suggest obtaining help from world-class strategic research centers and understand the story behind the current Arab revolutions. However, a skillful geo-political observant can easily figure out that the main roots of such revolutions is twofold.
First, there are revolutions that are made by external forces and utilized advanced information technology techniques with support by international organizations.
Second, there are revolutions that have started without any kind of planning, but there were some implicit forces that led people to place their demands and suddenly found themselves achieving unintended success on the ground. Examining the two roots indicates that none of them is dominant and accordingly we have found ourselves in what is called the “Arab Spring” or the “Arab Revolutions”.
From my point of view, the revolutions we are experiencing these days are NOT naturally made or born in the Arab world but rather they have been “fertilized” using “hybrid techniques” which have been paved by “outside”- “inside” factors and finally imposed in different ways in some Arab societies.
In conclusion, I would argue that the Arab revolutions are “hybrid” which requires massive efforts to gain the claimed benefits for the Arab citizen. I know many of the readers may not agree with me but I have a central point here. What are the proclaimed aims and benefits? What are the strategies to reach their aims? What are the ideologies that support such revolutions? What are the implementation plans that give direct and tangible benefits and evidence on the success of those revolutions?
Obviously, there are inadequate answers and all what people are hearing is simply claims and unclear promises! This situation raises an important question which is: What can be done to make such revolutions a success, as claimed by the revolutionists? The possible answer could be in the area of political marketing. Actually, superficial political marketing practices in our region have been the main cause of toppling several political regimes due to misunderstanding consumers’ (voters’) needs.
The practice of political marketing is related to marketing strategies and tactics being practiced by political leaders, political parties, independent candidates, and parliamentary candidates. The common thread between all of them is that they try their best to satisfy voters’ needs (customers) in the areas which they either represent or compete in.
According to the political marketing ideology, a candidate or a political party should have a well-designed marketing campaign upon which he is elected by voters based on promises delivered during the campaign.
The main theme of promises is to satisfy the voters’ needs better than others. Voters’ needs may be stated as improving the economic situation, improving a society’s values and believes, increasing public spending on health issues and education, and many others. Once a political party and/or its leader is elected this is the starting point of a successful political marketing process.
Political marketing history shows that the best political marketing practices are in the United States of America and Europe with a special focus on the United Kingdom experience. In these countries, one can witness and feel the greatest since of democratization and, subsequently, the state-of-art of political marketing. For example, although USA and UK have quite different electoral systems, the roots of political marketing success or failure vary due to the cultural differences.
Personally, I am really impressed by the UK’s political parties marketing practices which are equipped with the best democracy practices in mankind history. For example, there are only two political parties that take 10 Downing Street office interchangeably; Labor and Conservatives. They have applied the best marketing concepts and strategies in their campaigns.
However, it does not matter what the strategy is as long as it leads to achieve and satisfy voters’ needs in an ethical manner. Having said so, we are in a real need for political marketing if Arabs need to succeed in their revolutions. The main concern in this context is that the Arab revolutionists have finished the excitement phase which is related to toppling the old-fashioned and none-democratic regimes and/or
ruling parties. Now, what is next?
How can revolutionists pursue their strategic goals in complicated regional and international political environments? More precisely, there is a growing trend in the Arab world showing that Islamists are taking offices in some Arab countries and running our daily lives business. No problem in doing so as long as they have the “right” solutions for our problems in all spheres; politically, economically, socially and so on.
I am not discussing politics in this context. I am just thinking loudly regarding what I have learned in political marketing. From my perspective, I have not seen any Arab revolutionist or political party with a thorough understanding of their people’s needs and behaviors! What are the branding and positioning strategies they have drafted?
Communications matter, I have not seen any well-designed marketing communications campaigns that address the complexities of the Arab societies using multiple levels of communications targeting several segments of our ever-evolving societies. Furthermore, there is also a superficial understanding for the regional and international environments on all levels. What makes me more skeptical is that things are not getting any better; conversely things are going from bad to worse!
The main idea is that we are in a critical need to start using the available political marketing concepts, strategies, and tactics that should enable political parties and politicians to satisfy voters’ needs on the short and long terms. I can argue that if we do not employ political marketing in the right way the majority of the current Arab revolutions may fail which means that we are at risk of creating a new generation of dictatorships who will eventually find their promising markets! The validity of my argument is that this is the best time for the political marketing philosophy, ideology, and practice.
If there is not a success story within two or three years time, there is a significant chance to put every revolution at risk. Therefore, a complete practice of political marketing is one of the potential exist strategies that will enable “the new revolutionists” to understand voters, segment markets, develop branding and positioning strategies, political marketing mix, and a complete political marketing performance revision and audit.
The only way to judge such thoughts is to wait and see what happens in the future. Consequently, a smart revolutionist should get the message earlier and develop unique political marketing campaigns to win the battle. In this context, I would like to remind you of a nice Chinese Proverb which says: “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice"