Atiku And The Mind Game

By Joe C Anatune.

The reality facing us is that the coming presidential election is a straight contest between President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Abubakar Atiku. In marketing parlance, Atiku is the challenger while Buhari is the market leader. Both are in a ferocious battle for the minds and souls of the over 80 million registered voters for the next presidential election in February 2019.

Clearly the market leader in every category is known for something and that thing, must connect better with the market and give them reason to buy again and again. In the case of Buhari, he has over the years developed a brand essence as an incorruptible leader. Buhari and his handlers know this too well and at every turn, try to exploit corruption as the major problem that is preventing progress in Nigeria.

My security guard Mohammed is an ardent Buhari supporter. His reason; Buhari does not touch public money, meaning he is honest. Inasmuch as corruption remains uncontrolled or reduced to manageable level, Mohammed enjoys a large company who think that Buhari remains the answer to the myriad of development challenges facing Nigeria. Candidate Buhari is comfortable in the company of the likes of Mohammed on the ground that come rain or sunshine, they will troop out to cast their votes for him. This captive mass voters ’market comprising 88 million Nigerians living under extreme poverty is the trump card of Buhari especially those from the northern part of Nigeria where he comes from. He feels that the ‘big men’ who think that his positioning is more or less a creation of social deception strategy only talk and hardly come out on the D-day to vote. A dispassionate analysis informs us that since politics is a game of numbers, Buhari is currently sitting on a very comfortable position as far as winning the minds of those that actually vote is concerned. He appears to hold the ace in this regard. Fortunately for him, it takes a lot of work to dislodge this mind set.

A challenger to Buhari has a couple of options if he truly desires to take over the market. He may decide to nibble at the various identifiable segments of the market and in each of these segments, offers variegated versions of same product that best suit the market. Bringing it home, the challenger can identify clusters based on age, religion or tribe and target them with messages from the same theme. This approach or strategy demands time and for this election, time has become a scarce commodity.

Two, the challenger may adopt a flanking approach in which case, he encircles the leader in all strangleholds with a view to cannibalising him and taking over. Here, unfortunately the market leader with all the resources at his disposal can viciously fight back to hold or expand his share of the market, more so since it takes the market some time to accept new ideas or products. The adoption process of new ideas products can be slow, gruelling and frustrating. The sad news here is that the challenger can be dead on arrival if care is not taken. The truth is that the contest for votes is a battle for the mind which can be likened to a perceptual map. It takes time to wipe away whatever is imprinted in that perceptual map. That to me, is the challenge facing Candidate Atiku in the coming election. He has only three months or thereabout to pull the chestnut out of the fire. That is no easy task but it is doable.

From my observatory, Atiku draws followership from the middle and upper classes. Curiously, their electoral value is in doubt. Christian is one of them. Christian is well educated but more important, is very exposed and versed in communication disciplines. He is as smart as they come and is very excited about the prospect of an Atiku presidency. On enquiry of what is the most important single minded thing to say about Atiku, Christian unlike Mohammed came with a cocktail of messages.

Hear him; ‘’Fake integrity has been bursted, Atiku is a successful businessman, a wealth creator, detribalised…married to Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa women, Atiku represents equal representation, has friends in all the geo-political zones and more.’’

Christian gleefully assured he will not spill the beans, urging Nigerians to hold their breaths for the campaigns to break when INEC lifts the lid. Until then, Buhari is the nice guy who abhors graft while Atiku remains the man with coat of many colours who is seen from any angle by the voting public or at best a hardnosed capitalist.

The foregoing are more or less perceptions and as they say, perception is everything.
This is fatal. For a brand to gain loyalty especially in very competitive market, it must be known for something better than all competing brands. This something may be a functional or emotional attribute. In categories where functional benefits are few and between, an imagery can be created for the brand to gain foothold in the minds of prospects. And to achieve this, the brand must have a SINGLE VOICE. It is important that the brand is recognised in any crowd it is found.

Alhaji Abubukar Atiku as a politician of long standing has both name recall and recognition. This is a plus. He has been everything many aspire to be except president of the federal republic of Nigeria. If truth must be told, what he appears to have in short supply is a positive positioning that will resonate with the critical mass for the office he is running for. His case is made worse by the cacophony of sometimes conflicting messages emanating from his numerous support groups especially in the social media. Now where will he go from here as we approach decision day?

From a strategic point of view, Atiku needs to adopt a FRONTAL ATTACK to take over Buhari’s job. He must shoot from all cylinders as this approach demands. He has a reputation of having a huge war chest and there is no better time to use this to maximum advantage than now. There is need to invade the stranglehold or catchment area of the market leader and in this case President Buhari. Now it is important to match his promise with one important aspiration of the voting public.

Anti-corruption is the territory of the market leader, so it is a waste of time and resource campaigning on that premise. Restructuring is one issue his position is clear and well known, but can it galvanise the critical mass who constitute the voting public and give the needed numbers for victory? The handlers must put on their thinking cap and pronto. I suggest OPENESS as marketable toga or concept that can be tied around candidate Atiku for possible quick conversion of the over 14 million new voters made up of in large part by young men and women voting for first time.

Seriously, and contrary to popular posturing in the so called enlightened circles, emotions more than reasons determine how we decide on the choices we make day in day out. This demands a lot of work to unravel but if that good emotional connection is not found, communicated and imbibed, Candidate Atiku will at best remain a good commodity. He will make impact but not enough to be the market leader unless something providential like a major slip by the market leader blows his way. Three months is a long time in politics and as Christian suggested, let us wait for INEC to lift the lid on political campaign. Who knows, the Atiku camp may come up with the BIG IDEA that will make all the difference in the mind game for the 2019 presidential election?

Joe Anatune wrote via

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