Sanwo-Olu: Selling a Political Candidate on the Crest of Pop Culture
The political marketing campaigns towards the 2019 General elections has taken off in full swing as Communications consultants and campaign teams deploy strategies to rev up activities in a bid to selling the proverbial snow to the Eskimos! Would this be easy? Most unlikely! However, the ingenuity of the Consultants and the candidate’s willingness to work together as a one cohesive and formidable team may deliever the goodies.
The great MKO Hope 1993 campaign is case in point. The campaign anchored by the now-defunct Rosabel Advertising turned around a seemingly “hard sell” of a candidate, Bashorun MKO Abiola to become the darling of the electorates on a national scale. The result was an overwhelming victory for his party, SDP at the polls against the NRC candidate. The rest, as they say, is history.
As a lead-up to the February/March 2019 elections, yours sincerely will be taking a critical look at some candidates’ political campaigns (individually) with a view to reviewing the entire 360 communications gamut within the scope of relevance, functionality, and effectiveness. The reviews will also consider adherence to some simple but often overlooked political marketing tips.
To kick-start this would-be interesting journey, the BrandCrunch board of editors, in line with the dictum, “charity begins at home”, choose to start off with Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, the APC Lagos State Governorship governorship Candidate.
The emergence of this candidate if anything confers on the candidate, Party, and his Communication Team, the burden of his competence and acceptance by the general electorate. The discord generated within the party and the battle against the incumbent, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode were enough to sink a Titanic.
These, coupled with the fact that Sanwo-Olu, the subject here, was ‘relatively unknown’ in Lagos politics demanded a foolproof marketing strategy and unique positioning for the candidate to become sellable. Late American Publisher and entrepreneur, Mark Twain’s ‘It is not the size of the dog in a fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog’ becomes instructive in this exercise.
Findings confirm the communications team indeed adopted a RACE strategy – Reach, Act, Convert and Engage while it also set out to position Sanwo-Olu as the next electable governor of Lagos State that will take Lagos Further. This they implied to mean ‘Taking Lagos further or making it greater, will be a collective responsibility with a Leadership that ensures greater good for the greatest number (prosperity for all). The “recluse” at that point needed to reach out, act in such a way to positively engage, bond with different stakeholders, convert to loyalists and make ambassadors.
The message positioning clearly expresses a strong strategy and memorable association for the campaign. It helped to create the consistency required for the campaign to stay focused.
To break the ice and translate its strategic intent to action, prior to the media campaign, “recluse” Sanwo-Olu was put on the road for high powered “endorsements” nay courtesy visits to critical stakeholders – traditional rulers. He also got on the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibajo’s entourage to selected markets in Lagos while the VP availed traders information on how to access the touchy FG’s supported trader-moni grant (the logic of this, another story for another day). However, suffice to say that these experiential marketing activations instantly improved the candidate’s popularity rating; generated enormous talk value and goodwill.
The ensuing introductory (outdoor) campaign further unveiled the Sanwo-Olu persona. It boldly declared, “My name is Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, I will really like to engage with you #ForAGreaterLagos Seasons Greetings” creatively creating empathy for “movement”. In very strategic ways, this tone complemented the Print teaser campaign with materials such as: “Lagos is calling …who will answer?”; “Lagos is speaking … who will listen?” and “Lagos is Yawning …who will respond?”, all these and numerous others perfectly align and bring to life the campaign’s RACE strategy.
The teasers have since been followed up with exciting but maybe not out-of-this-world print creative materials. They are punchy picture led posters that further bolster the people’s confidence in the Sanwo-Olu candidature as a “listening and all-encompassing” leader.
As expected the materials provide the anticipated answers to earlier ‘flighted’ teasers. Some of the copies include: “When Lagos Calls … Sanwo-Olu Answers”; “When Lagos Yearns … Sanwo-Olu responds”; “When Lagos Speaks…Sanwo Olu Listens”. The latter has the body copy “I hear you loud and clear. I hear the voice calling for a Lagos for everyone. The voice of hope and aspiration, voices calling for greater performance and inclusiveness. Join me hand-in-hand as we build the Lagos we want”. Others were tilted a bit to reflect their respective headlines. As expected the party logo and pay-off line –“Together, for a greater Lagos” remain constant in all materials.
More than any other candidate and possibly the president too, the Sanwo-Olu now popularly dubbed “Sanwo-Eko” APC Lagos campaign towers above all in the deployment of posters. It is the most ubiquitous and varied! Of all, two stood out and very well played up the comparative game thus creating the needed contrast for the candidate to shoot up above the competition.
Unequivocally, these stamped the reason why voters should choose the APC candidate. In one, the headline (all caps, bold) pointedly read – “Building a greater Lagos is not a job for a Learner”. Like a sucker punch, this hits the main opposition party and its candidate below the belt. As if to back up acclaimed “high-ground” the other press material with Sub-headline: “The Man BOS” flaunts the APC flag bearer’s academic and career attainments, especially in the Lagos State civil service.
This was followed by the series ‘Let’s Build our State, Services, Security, etc’ where BOS, the initials of the Candidate was emphasized for easy recall. The focus was on canvassing for partnership and togetherness in building the Lagos we desire and deserve.
Chest thumping, bold and audacious claims, you may say. I guess it’s damn working!
Thank goodness none has yet been told to hug the transformer or jump into the Lagos Lagoon! The issue of diversity is given utmost attention by the communications handlers. Different gender, race, age, tongue etc are also reflected and well represented.
The virile youth and its effervescent pop culture form the soul of the TV / Radio materials. They feature sights and voices of Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba to reflect the cosmopolitan status of the state as the melting pot for all. “I want…” Radio commercial creatively speaks to the needs of the population in their voices and “Sanwo-Eko” in closing “Answers” in a somewhat re-assuring voice.
The choice of Jaywon, popular Nigerian youth, singer, songwriter, performer, producer, and actor with tremendous followership across the country was on point. His popular and generally loved track “Odun yi a san wa sire” was expertly remixed for the purpose of the campaign. The result “Getting Ready, Sanwo-Olu is here” is fast becoming an anthem among the youth complemented with the latest cosmopolitan “Gbe bodi e” dance steps. Jaywon’s “We’re getting ready, Sanwo-Olu is here” TVC reels out the campaign promises in Jaywon’s melodious signature tune that cuts it with all age range and class. Too many materials, across different media and spaces but the synergy plays out loud. “Ote” is another radio material delivered in one very engaging Yoruba folkloric tone and feel.
While Radio and TV are waxing stronger with increasing slots on different channels/stations’ airwaves, the campaign seems to pale out in the press after the initial unveil wrap around materials in 10 Newspapers.
Could it be that the planners are substituting the avalanche of crown posters in all nooks and crannies of the state for newspaper insertions? Hell No! These serve different strategic functions and audience. More could be done in this regard, including online banners in specialized /professional news platforms which are totally ignored for now.
In all, the campaign clearly displays a strong strategy, single-minded proposition and seamless deployment across different channels. This has helped in message consistency, and focus while it also portrays Sanwo –Olu as running for the right reason by proactively pushing the ideas and little attention to the opposition. The candidate is presented on the strength of skills and competencies that can help the state achieve incredible things. This is a plus!
What we are seeing today, is the making a heavyweight champion out of a minion! Is it not said that people sympathise with the underdog but go with the top-dog? This probably explains the ocean of converts swelling up the numbers by the day.
Caveat! Two months is a very long time in the life of a political campaign /election! The successes attained to date will most likely translate into actual votes if the tempo is maintained and the next phased strategically handled to avoid boring out the audience.
The same message can be delievered in more innovative ways to continue to gain traction and help the brand (candidate) resonate the more with the electorate (target public).