What Brands Can Learn From The Kenyan Election


The 2017 Kenyan election has been an absolute circus for us as citizens and observers throughout the world. We now have a president-elect but there is no doubt that much is still left to be said in the form of many level-headed debates (hopefully) in the coming weeks.  If you are a business owner like many, your business has in one way or the other been affected by the just concluded electoral process. There are things that have transpired through the period that may be applicable to businesses seeking to attract and keep customers.  Here are some valuable lessons we have been left with.

1. Don’t just compete, use your competition 

Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are not the most subtle speakers (as leaders) of our generation.  Through their campaign rallies, they were at times characterized by being loud, obnoxious and said things ordinary politicians would have never gotten away with, yet people still love them. What they excelled at is supplying a demand that already existed, and their supporters massively bought in.

“You can’t walk forward looking backwards”

They knew very well that there were questionable things about their 5-year term in office, so the business sense they applied in their campaign idea targeted the opposition. They attacked their frailties and told their supporters what they wanted to hear, and they got support for doing so. They amplified their presence leveraging on their competition. Likewise, brands can engage in healthy competition by maximizing on the weaknesses of their competitors to gain an advantage in the market.


Kenyan elections. Image from http://www.aitonline.tv/post-outcome_of_kenyan_elections_analysis


2. Brand Identity Matters

A company’s brand identity is how that business is perceived by its customers. There are more components added to this to reflect the value of what the company is trying to bring to the market. Raila Odinga is the key figure of the opposition and is notably known for giving previous regimes a run for their money whenever elections are on. In his push for the presidency (and subsequent request for people not to vote) he brought issues he was passionate about to the national stage. He made a political career fighting for the things he believes in and it has ever since been getting him attention, respect and it has won him votes.

From an entrepreneurial perspective, the lesson here is, passion and dedication to your craft will always earn you people’s admiration and respect. This will give you the opportunity to build a brand people care about.

  1. Social Media Can Be Your Worst Enemy

There are millions of social media users in Kenya and even though they don’t engage with your brand directly, many are still capable of viewing your content. One wrong move and you may find yourself on the wrong side of the fray. When the IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati sent out a tweet with certain figures only for him to give different ones at a press briefing, it left thousands of people questioning the credibility of the figures being tallied and subsequently terming the whole process as a sham. The Deputy President also had a foot in the mouth moment when he termed a section of the people who did not take part in the voting process as ‘Organized Militia’ in an interview. This was not received well by a section o Kenyans on Twitter leading to a day-long trend with the hashtag #Iamnotmilitia which were directed to him for what was taken as derogatory remarks.

For brands, the take-a-ways are, limit what you share on your platforms until it is verified beyond dispute. Because people will always demand answers or seek justification which you have to provide without looking sketchy about it. Secondly, if your brand is supposed to be represented at any kind of live briefing, carefully pick who you decide to speak on your behalf and they should be properly prepared for it. One wrong statement could completely damage your brand’s image and credibility.

Some of the strategies political parties use to appeal to their voters can be scaled down and applied to various businesses to acquire more customers or retain existing customers.

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Ken is a marketing strategist working with various brands online. He is passionate about helping businesses build relationships by providing actionable insights on online marketing and advertising trends.