A brief discourse on a loss...(Pt.1)


Written on 3/10/2008 05:02:00 pm by sikapitan

Some general observations from the “Tsunami” election 2008 (remember 08.03.08 – you’re there when it happened…)

Barisan lost. It’s as simple as that. Pak Lah can claim that they still won, but if you minus Sabah & Sarawak (55 seats), Barisan’s control in the Parliament is a measly 85 seats, with the Opposition breathing down their neck with 80. The real battle has always been in the Peninsular, and in true Rocky Balboa style, Barisan took a hell of a beating.

Who listens to them?
It’s interesting to note the various political pundits going on air discussing on the morale-boosting victory for the Opposition. Where were they in the mainstream media leading up to the elections? Why do suddenly we see the newspapers discussing the weaknesses of Barisan while before this everything “looked” just fine? It’s a joke sometimes, and their credibility has to be questioned after this.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, they too are suddenly unleashed as the powers that lord over them grows weak? It is an interesting possibility, a potential side-effect of the “Tsunami”. Could we now see Harakah being distributed openly? Will the mainstream media finally find its voice and speak the truth?

Ill-communication (cue the Beastie Boys...)
Communication. That is one aspect of the election that Barisan missed, and one I believe contributed to its massive losses. The message that they are trying to convey, the medium in which it was delivered, and the people that delivered it are no longer accepted and relevant to the increasingly vocal and boisterous Malaysian voting public.

Barisan continued on with its typical campaign posturing – TV ads, Newspaper ads and posters and buntings galore. In Subang Jaya, Barisan’s posters outnumbered DAP’s by at least 5 to 1. Its ironic then that DAP’s candidate, Hannah Yeoh (a fellow SMKSU alumni), won more than double the votes her BN candidate did. How much was spent on those MCA ads is beyond my simple calculation, but as every business minded person would question, where’s the Return on Investment?

Ugh, not another ad...
Barisan may have miscalculated on the impact intense propaganda has on Malaysians. Even a Barisan supporter would be turned-off listening to another SELAMAT AMAN MAKMUR ad on the radio. Imagine the effect it had on the fence-sitters and Opposition supporters.

The problem when the entire mainstream media overload on BN propaganda is that it loses credibility and most importantly, relevancy. The consequence of this is the search for alternative source of info, and in this day and age, most people will turn to the Internet.

Rise of the New Media (the truth is out there...somewhere)
News and opinions reported in websites and blogs gain more credibility and prominence compared to mainstream media. Even SMS-es, regardless of its veracity, hold more weight than a full-paged report in the newspapers. This will lead to people easily being swayed by reports, rumors and plain old lies as long as it doesn’t appear in the Star, Straits Times, TV3 etc.

Barisan, under the stewardship of Pak Lah, has fallen into the trap a lot of incumbents make when they have been dominating for a long time, be it in Politics or Business. They become stale in their marketing strategy and believe in their own strengths without actually taking the time to step back and view the voice from the consumers/public. It’s a simple business lesson that could also be applied in politics – never rest on your laurels.

Barisan as a Brand
As a brand, Barisan’s values are constantly being challenged by a vibrant and flexible Opposition that could change its values with every coming election to suit the people’s needs (remember the old Barisan Alternatif?). That should be cause of concern for Opposition supporters, but hey, politics are never about rationale thinking. What’s more alarming was to see how Barisan let its brand and values take a beating without taking any steps to mend the wounds.

Brand Refresh is the term people use in Business-Speak. It means re-examining the values that your Brand convey to the public and whether or not the public accept that values and believe in it. It means a constant re-look at your Value Proposition – the thing that makes people want to buy you or stay loyal – from a different angle and adding on compelling reasons for people to choose you. Barisan should always adapt its Brand so that it remains relevant to the current issues.

What happens when a public company reports massive losses?
Nevertheless, at the end of the day, no matter how well the message is conveyed and how wonderful the Branding exercise has been, if the product sucks, people will still not buy it. And in politics, most often than not, the products are not the policies, but the people who introduce and implement the policies. This Tsunami loss is a reflection that Malaysians don’t want the product, they don’t believe in the product.

In business, a CEO has to be accountable for the failure of the product. It’s time we run the country like a business. Go figure.


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