Article 41 – Believe it or not

by Tan Thiam Hock

For those of you who have had watched Ripley’s on TV, I am certain that you are still undecided on whether to believe some of the bizarre stories that appeared in the series. Always well presented with an engaging script, the narrator takes you to the edge of sanity in a persuasive argument as the unbelievable story unfolds. You are seduced into believing.

Believe you me, I am now experiencing the same state of mind, every time I read the local cartoons and political stories easily available via emails, Facebook and Internet. Whether it is anti-BN or anti-PKR, the cartoons are so hilariously funny that you forget what the message is all about. The stories and claims in the articles are so far fetched and heavily skewed that even a simple educated mind will question the motives and credibility of the writer.

All the advertising gurus will give you the same advice. Treat your customers with respect. Never underestimate their intelligence. If you want your customers to buy into your brand, tell the truth and allow them to believe in you. A credible brand lasts forever.

I have long stopped reading political newsletters by opposition or pro-government parties. I totally ignore the political news in our local newspapers because the reports are heavily skewed towards the party that owns the daily. So I turn to the sports section followed by business news and then the foreign news.

I particularly look forward to columns by Marina Mahathir and others because I believe in them. Their sincere viewpoints are well articulated and written with full conviction. Most importantly, their love for the well being of the nation transcends the political divide and allows them to be truthful and forthright. In the journalistic world, they have become arguably a credible brand.

When you are on your own, you can believe in anything you want. Just make sure your wife believes you. When you run a partnership, mutual trust is everything. In a listed company, your investors believe you when your share price is up and the Securities Commission looks at you in disbelief when your share price continues to go further up.

When you manage a government linked corporation, your KPI is linked to the happiness level of your political masters. When you are a civil servant in an opposition state, you do not know who to believe in. Either way, you are just a pawn in a needless power struggle between the federal and the state. Nobody trusts you.

When you are starting a new business, building a creditable reputation for both yourself and your company is a must. Your staff must believe in your leadership or they will not follow. Suppliers and bank officers need to believe your financial statements and forecast. Your stakeholders’ confidence in you determines your success level.

If you wonder why some political leaders continue to insult your intelligence by saying some really stupid stuff, my belief is that they do not understand market segmentation, changing market trends and consumer target profiles.

Some thirty years back, economic policies were formulated based on racial needs and religious tolerance. The greater population was young, rural based and poorly educated. Communicating with the citizens then was simple and straightforward. Just control the mass media tools like TV, radio and the newspapers. Spin positive propaganda and you are home free.

Now you have a smaller rural population, well-educated fat middle class and a fast growing group of well-travelled intellectuals. The ruling party still believes in controlling the mass media to spin their stories and they still propagate the same old message to all three segments of the society. Outdated and fragmented policies of fighting for the rights of the people based on race and religion.

In the current oligopoly political scenario, the opposition is also campaigning along the same lines. So it does not matter whichever party wins the next general election, we will have more of the same in our lifetime.

If you are a smart marketeer, you will realise that there is a growing void in the political arena. There is a crying need for leaders who believes in fighting for all Malaysians, sincerely cares for the poor and smart enough to manage and protect the wealth of the nation.

This is a great opportunity. Like all new businesses, you will have to start small and grow it step by step. With the Internet, you do not have to control any mainstream media. You just need to be honest, tell the truth and you will become a credible brand.

Managing a country is no more different than managing a big company. The CEO is answerable to all the stakeholders. The management team is responsible for the long term wealth of the company. Keeping existing customers has become much tougher as the competitors become more savvy in communication. Acquiring new customers involves major investments.

Hiring talents to crossover has become very very expensive due to upfront signing on fees. To stay in touch with your customers, you have to organise roadshows, criss crossing the nation. You have to work hard to survive.

If you are a credible brand, I will vote for you. Believe it or not, I want to believe in you.