Sanwo-Olu: Political Marketing Made Simple
Raheem Akingbolu examines the media campaign strategy of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, for their re-election in Lagos State, saying with the way the campaign team has hit the streets, it is obvious they are not giving in yet to the threat of complacency
In the build-up to the 2019 governorship election in Lagos, there were mixed feelings in the state’s political landscape. Some intrigues that preceded the emergence of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had created a crack within the party. Though the reality had dawned on Lagosians that former Governor Akinwumi Ambode had left the stage, the personality of the new choice of the party for the governorship position was that of the underdog, especially in the minds of the state’s apolitical class. In some quarters, observers believed the crisis could boost the chance of the opposition party and consume the ruling APC.
The complex scenario thus gave the handlers of the incoming Babajide Sanwo-Olu a huge task of fresh marketing and positioning. With cutting-edge strategies, Sanwo-Olu’s strategists deplored relevant tools of political marketing, first to calm the nerves and later to sell the new brand -Sanwo-Olu. At the end of the exercise, not only did he win, but the work done on his brand left Lagos residents perplexed until May 29 when the ‘star boy was formally inaugurated to oversee the affairs of the country’s economic nerve centre.
At a well-attended event last week in Lagos, the drum was rolled-out again for what was themed; “A Greater Lagos Rising” to unveil the re-election campaign of the Lagos Governor. Perhaps because of the exploits and the audacity of Sanwo-Olu to weather the storm, despite the odds, the occasion provided more opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the governor than the campaign for another four years. Any day, anytime, Lagos remains the most cosmopolitan, complex and difficult to govern in Nigeria but with the COVID-19 pandemic and the #EndSARS imbroglio, the situation became tougher under Sanwo-Olu. To date, it’s still a misery to many observers how he was able to curtail the challenge at such difficult periods.
Brand is Personality
Arek Dvornechcuck, a branding expert and graphic designer based in New York, USA, while opening his well-known article on the personality of leading global brands said: “Brand personality plays a crucial role in developing and maintaining strong brands—it’s a set of human characteristics attributed to a brand. Brands stand out not only by how they position themselves in the marketplace but also by how well they connect with customers.” BOS handlers seem to understand this.
The DNA of branding is purely its capacity to deliver an experience or value as promised. The character that epitomises the person of Sanwo-Olu is that of a disciplined, simple and pleasant man. How best can one explain it other than to be marvelled that despite having reached the peak of Lagos politics, BOS remains himself -unassumingly humble and focused. Of course, God knew ab-initio that a man who could maintain his calmness amid a crisis was needed between 2020 and 2021 and He used his men to bring in a Sanwo-Olu, who would remain calm amid hostility.
Looking back, it’s easy to conclude that Lagos didn’t need short-fuse characters during those critical periods to bring stability and avert calamity in the state. Like harmattan fire, Sanwo-Olu soon started gaining traction through positive word-of-mouth marketing. It’s simple logic; when your brand tells a story that people want to hear, they’ll repeat it to friends, family, and strangers at the bus stop. They’re your brand ambassadors. With word-of-mouth advertising, BOS quickly became the social proof that his brand is credible. Thus, he confirmed the conclusion of Sprout Social on word-of-mouth advertising that it “can improve the overall impact of your marketing campaigns by up to 54%.”
Import of the Lagos Rising Campaign
As demonstrated by Lagos politician, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, it was clear that having a good brand to work on is far-reaching than rolling out multibillion naira campaigns to position a bad brand. One after the other, Obanikoro and Omotoso accepted the fact that building a brand is one thing, but capturing the target consumer is a whole other feat. From start-ups to big corporations, brand awareness will always be a factor crucial to a business’s success. For the Sanwo-Olu brand, it’s a case of a successful brand whose sustainability becomes easy.
From the beautiful campaign theme song to the subtle references to the governor’s legacy projects in three and a half years, despite the challenges, the handlers of the project displayed a core understanding of Lagos landscape as a discerning cosmopolitan city that would not settle for less. Besides, the right campaign themes offer the electorate the context to better understand a public figure’s priorities, concerns and reasons for seeking public office.
Like a person, a brand must have unique and defining characteristics that engender affinity, walkability and loyalty. The Sanwo-Olu handlers successfully amplified his superior charisma to create a candidate who is very, very ‘gubernatorial’. This is evident in the promo pictures of the governor and his deputy that appeared in the media and various out-of-home platforms. The team raised the bar in the subsequent materials, with the deliberate pairing of these number one and two citizens, who have remained inseparable since day one in office. The promotion of Sanwo-Olu’s personality leveraging his pragmatism, integrity and calmness appealed more to the new generation of voters, who constitute a larger part of Lagos’ population. These youths by extension constitute the larger pool of the electorates.
The campaign, with the theme, “A Greater Lagos Rising”, is indeed an innovative concept in political advertising. Unveiling the campaign on behalf of the governor, Omotoso said the governor has assured indigenes of the state that his re-election in 2023 will increase the greatness of the state.
He said the campaign team had come to the incontrovertible conclusion that the fitting theme of the 2023 re-election campaign for the governor and his deputy, Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat should be: “A Greater Lagos Rising! It is a thematic continuum of what we promised in 2019.”
In a speech delivered on behalf of Sanwo-Olu, he was quoted to have said: “We promised our people Greater Lagos. What do we see around us? We see abundant evidence of a new city rising from the womb of time. We do not make a false claim of having reached the zenith of our journey. Our contextual usage of the word is as an adjective that suggests an upward swing, an increase, and an upward movement. These are the signs Lagosians can see all around the state.
“All of our campaign assets capture the place of the audacity of the spirit of Lagos in the rising of the city. The campaign assets are not some forms of self-adulation but fitting credit to the contributions of Lagosians, especially the youth to the height Lagos has attained today.”
If there is anything that stands out in the process of selling the Brand Sanwo-Olu to the electorate, it lies in its clear brand message. The handlers cleverly used the act of marketing messaging, which represents how a brand communicates to its customers and highlighted the value of its products. “Messages” refer to not only the actual words and phrases used by a brand in advertising but also feelings and emotions associated with what they say. This is the core of Sanwo-Olu’s new campaign.
The newly unveiled campaign theme by the Lagos State Governor is a reaffirmation of the brand promise.
In marketing, a brand promise is a value or experience a company’s customers can expect to receive every single time they interact with the company. The more a company can deliver on that promise, the stronger the brand value in the mind of customers and employees.
For Governor Sanwo-Olu, the political theme for his re-election is a re-affirmation of a promise he made in 2019 when he campaigned for election into the state’s topmost job. This was well encapsulated in his speech when he said: “Now we have seen signs of greatness in Lagos all around us.”
Although he said his government may not have attained the peak, the greater Lagos the administration promised at inception is now rising. It is therefore expected that Lagosians and indeed the electorate will be disposed to re-electing him having created value for them with the promise kept.
Not Yielding to Complacency
Many marketing experts have argued and concluded that complacency is a silent killer of strong brands. With the vigour with which Sanwo-Olu and his team hit the streets with many campaign materials, it is obvious they are not giving in yet to the threat of complacency. When it comes to most things in life, complacency is rarely something that can be seen as a positive. For business, it is a silent killer as brand complacency can lead to a loss of key individuals and a failure to attract bright ambitious people.
To appeal to Lagosians, the team had on December 1 deployed an array of their campaign assets comprising digital banners, A-Frames, Static Billboards, Digital Billboards, Gantries, Branded BRT Buses, and Venticulars to strategic locations in the state.
Also, to underscore their place as the State of Aquatic Splendour, they embarked on a laser branding of the Lagos Lagoon along the Third Mainland Bridge to the delight of many Lagosians who ply that route in the early hours of the morning. Those away from that route have also not been left out as the laser branding campaign is being well amplified on social media to reach millions of Lagosians in the nooks and crannies of the state.
By 4:30 am of the same day, a thousand energetic young Lagosians took strategic locations in the state dressed as Campaign Mascots to alert Lagosians that the official campaign of Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat had commenced. They were also on the Third Mainland Bridge, Oshodi, Lekki, Ikorodu, Ojota and Abule Egba. At 6:30am, hundreds of Lagos citizens in the riverine communities also rolled out branded canoes in a special Sea Show to commemorate the start of the re-election campaign.
This was climaxed with a multi-dimensional Road Show comprising Power Bikers, Activation Rigs and Mobile Advertising Vans that commenced from Ikeja through Ikorodu Road to Lagos Island. Meanwhile, as all these were going on, by 1p.m., the campaign jingles hit the airwaves and by 7p.m., their first set of TV campaigns was deployed. Indeed, it’s campaign season
One thing Sanwo-Olu has shown with the disruptive launch of his campaign is that he has surrounded himself with a team of professionals who truly understand their craft.